Monday, December 8, 2014

The Perfect Gift

One of my favorite things to do this time of year is to find the perfect gift for a loved one. For me, it's one way I can show the other person how much they mean to me.

But what if your loved one is a writer? Writers are a completely different type of person with different needs and interests than many people. Below I've listed the top three gifts I would give a writer. These are gifts that would be most helpful for them.

  • Writing Conference. Especially for a novice writer, the information you can gain from writing conferences is invaluable. Usually the panelists or presenters provide practical, hands-on information. Some educational programs are really helpful and effective, but they can sometimes be more theoretical than practical. You can also pick-and-choose which topics are most interesting to you or those you need more information about because of your writing weaknesses. For the more experienced writer, writing conferences are a great place to network with other writers and professionals within the industry. Many of the connections necessary to be successful in the writing field are forged at writing conferences: agents, publishers, writers as critiquers, friendships of support, etc. Writing conferences can be genre-specific or generalized to all writing. I've attended some of both, and they are both beneficial. Paying for and providing the opportunity for a writer to attend a conference would be a great gift.
  • Writing Tools. By comparison to other careers or hobbies, writers need relatively few external tools, but the ones they need are important. Particularly in our digital age, a computer of some sort is necessary anymore. I prefer a laptop because it is portable for anywhere I may have the opportunity to write. It is also "mine," which means I don't have to share it with anyone else in the family. I am less likely for something to get deleted, get viruses, or otherwise have my writing lost. I like to back my writing up in multiple places. I usually save my work to my home computer, Google Drive, a flash drive, and Dropbox. Most of these resources are "free," but some may require an initial investment. I have many writer friends who swear by the program Scrivener. I have never used it, but I've heard a lot of great things about how it allows you to organize your writing in particular.  Tools for writing tend to be relatively inexpensive by comparison to other careers, but they are still a great gift to help your beloved writer be successful.
  • Time and Support. This is a little bit of an abstract gift, but perhaps the most important one. Writers think and work a little bit differently from other people. It is often a solitary job with constant negative criticism about how terrible your writing is, and it's difficult to not interpret that as that you are also a terrible person. Writing is also very time-consuming. Sometimes we can spend hours working on a story and get only a few pages down. It's really hard to stay positive as a writer. If the ones closest to us tell us we are wasting our time and effort, we'll probably give up. Instead, think outside the box for an appropriate gift. Perhaps give your loved one a coupon for free babysitting while they write. Arrange your schedule to allow your loved one a set amount of uninterrupted writing time each day or week. Give lots of feedback on what is good on their writing even if you want to suggest an improvement. (A good ratio is 2 or 3 positives to 1 negative.) Good and bad feedback are more impactful coming from someone we care about versus a stranger. Make sure your writer gets the physical and emotional support they need to be successful. There is really no better gift for them.
I hope that this holiday season is a beautiful one for you. Spend time with your loved ones, and perhaps this will give you some ideas if you are still seeking that "perfect" gift for the writer in your life.
 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Story

I thought it might be fun to try something a little different this time around, so here is a (sorta) lighthearted Halloween story I wrote for you to enjoy.

Dinner Plans
            Xan flung his hand up toward his neck, trying to tighten his black tie. His flaky, greenish skin showed through the suit jacket sleeve that had been torn off on his last outing. He lolled his eyes toward his friend, Josh. “Mmm?” he groaned, his eyebrows (or what was left of them) raised.
            “Unnnhh,” Josh answered, nodding jerkily.
            Xan lumbered out of the house, his right foot dragging behind him. It took ten minutes to shuffle the five houses to Susan’s house. Her main floor windows had pieces of wood nailed across them while just a few shards of glass remained in the top floor windows.
            He limped up her porch steps. Xan knocked on her front door until his two middle fingers fell off. She opened the door at the same time he stooped to retrieve his digits. “Mmmm,” he groaned.
            Susan responded with a groan and a wave behind her to her roommate. Xan caught her arm just before it detached. She looked at him sideways. “Unnhhh,” she said, trying to stretch her lips into a smile without them disintegrating.
            The couple hobbled their way together, almost touching hands, but keeping some distance to avoid knocking one another’s limbs off. Xan thought Susan looked beautiful with her blue dress accentuating the grayish tint of her skin. The shreds revealing her stomach were quite fashionable. He hoped she had clumped her auburn hair just for him. And her perfume of decaying flesh sent shivers up his broken spine. Xan was pleased with himself that he had made reservations at the finest restaurant for tonight.
            They stumped along for over half an hour, the half-moon lighting their path, before Xan pointed at the trees a few yards in front of them. Susan turned, her eyes wide, and groaned, “Mmmm?” When Xan nodded, Susan grabbed his arm, dislocating it at the elbow. He reattached it, excited by her reaction. Everything was going to be perfect.
            After they reached the clearing in the trees, they waited for another twenty minutes or so while other couples shuffled in. They all stood in a loose circle around the edge of the clearing. Xan noted that everyone dressed in his and her finest ripped tuxedos and evening gowns – almost like Prom in years past.
            Finally an older zombie thumped to the middle of the clearing, a squirming sack weighing him down. He dropped the sack with a thud; a muffled moan issued from it. He turned in a small circle with his arms open wide, surveying the customers. “Hmmm,” he groaned with his arms raised. A cacophony of groans replied as the circle slowly tightened. 
The zombie in the middle leaned down and untied the sack. As he tugged on it, a blond teenage girl tumbled from its interior. She wore a gold sparkly dress. Xan nodded that the restaurant even maintained their fine atmosphere throughout the menu.
The girl, missing one high-heeled shoe, shrieked from the ground. Even so, she leaped to her feet. She rushed to one side of the circle, but one of the patrons lunged at her. She jumped back and screamed. She yanked her remaining shoe off and threw it at the zombie, lodging it in his shoulder.
A couple nearly reached her before she noticed their approach. Eyes wide, she screeched and ran the opposite direction. But her escape was blocked there as well.
Xan tugged Susan back a little from the rest of the circle, leaving a hole in the group. They hid in the shadow of a tree just outside the circle. Finally, the girl saw the small gap in the crowd. She ran toward it. This was exactly what Xan had planned so many nights for.
Arms reached out to catch the girl before she could escape, but they were too slow for the human’s speed. Zombies glared at Xan for his carelessness. But Xan knew what he was doing.
Just before the girl broke free from the circle, Xan heaved himself into the opening. The girl’s momentum prevented her from stopping, and instead she rushed straight into his chest. Expecting that, he had spread his legs as widely as he could get them. Luckily, Susan realized what he was doing and stood behind him. The inertia of the impact passed through Xan and into Susan, causing her to fall and lose a foot, but Xan remained upright.
The girl screamed as Xan caught her shoulder with one hand. He reached his other hand to the top of her head. With the swiftest, and most terrifying movement possible for a zombie, he jerked both hands in opposite directions, silencing the girl as her neck snapped.
For several moments, there was no sound, not even breathing, in the clearing. Eyebrows raised. Conversation started with quiet groans directed at partners. Then louder grunts, groans, and nods of approval were directed from the other patrons toward Xan.
Holding the rag doll in one hand, Xan turned back to Susan. He would have offered to help her up, but that would have only managed in pulling his own arm off. Instead, he showed her the prize while she gingerly regained her feet. Her eyes reflected the moonlight. The atmosphere was exquisite.
Susan offered him a rock she had brought from the ground. Xan smashed it against the corpse’s head. He peeled back the scalp and pulled off the shattered skull, revealing a bloody maze of a brain. He offered it toward Susan.
“Mmmm?” Susan groaned.
Xan shook the body once toward her and nodded.
Susan reached in carefully and wrapped her hands around the brain. She pulled firmly until the brain stem detached from the rest of the body. Xan tossed the corpse into crowd. He could hear the other zombies fighting over the spoils as he stared into Susan’s eyes.
Susan extended the brain to him, but Xan shook his head. She risked a full smile before tearing a bite off.
Together, as though by candlelight, they shared their delicacy.
Xan had shown Susan he loved her with a love that lasts forever. A love that will sacrifice anything, even brains, for the other.
A true zombie love.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Balancing Drama with Discourse

Writing is a bit like a courtship. We've either been on those first dates or heard about them where there was way too much information shared. I can't even remember what the commercial was for, but I saw one recently where the couple is on their first date, and the guy has made a creepy look-alike doll of his date. Halfway through the night, he starts making out with the puppet. Hilarious, but creepy. And it totally makes my point. A good first date is one in which the participants have an enjoyable evening and learn just enough about each other to be interested in learning more, but are not entirely creeped out. And thus it progresses on to the second date. And so on and so on until marriage. Even after marriage we are still learning about our partners. The key is that at each step along the way, a little more info is shared.

So why do we treat our books and stories any differently? Why do we as writers think we need to let our reader know everything as soon as possible?

It's a balancing act. We want to give our reader enough info to keep them interested and engaged in our story, but we don't want to provide so little that they are bored or confused. We as writers know so much about our characters and their worlds in which they live. And of course, as writers, we want everyone else to know all about them too. Unfortunately, we are sometimes disappointed when we discover just because we want our readers to know everything does not mean our readers have the same desire.

So how do we maintain the balance? Really, it's a matter of trial and error with lots of feedback from alpha/beta readers until it feels right. Basically it feels right when the necessary info is integrated so seamlessly that the reader doesn't even notice you put it in. Below are a couple of tricks I have learned along the written way.

  • Use a variety of techniques. When you are trying to convey either background story or technical information to a story, there are generally three ways to weave it in unnoticed: 1) discussing options in dialog between the characters, 2) the thoughts of one character, or 3) an experienced character explains a concept to a novice character.  
  • Cut to the chase. This is probably the #1 recommendation. Give enough background or info to help the reader understand your story, and then move on. But this is also a balancing act because it can lead to not enough info. If your reader is confused, you either need more explanation, or a better positioning/set-up in the story. Nuggets of background story or technical explanation are usually a sentence to a few; rarely more than a paragraph; and never a full page. An early draft of my medieval novel had a scene in it where I described a plow. This description stretched on for over half a page by itself. It was so long and twisted that my readers couldn't even picture the object I was describing. So I took that scene to the woodshed and I hacked at it. I read and re-read that description to determine which parts of the plow were the most important for a reader to picture or understand. I focused on those and cut the rest. I rearranged the order of my descriptions to flow more logically as though someone were examining it. Suddenly, my readers could see a picture among all the words.
  • Right time, right place.  First of all, don't break up the "action." Anything with a heightened tension to the scene is "action," and it probably isn't the right place to give explanations. It will bog your scene down. If it's a scene that has more of a meandering or musing feel to it, then it's probably an appropriate time to add the information/background. So if you find you are adding info in the middle of action scenes, there are a couple of ways you can fix it. First of all, determine if the info is really necessary for the reader to have. Perhaps they need the info to fully appreciate an insult, or why a character responded they way he/she did. Or perhaps it's just extra info that really doesn't add anything to your story. (Remember our date analogy at the beginning?) If it isn't necessary, cut it. As much as it may hurt, your story will be better for it. If it is necessary, either find a way to weave it in more artfully, or - my preference - somehow introduce the concept earlier (or occasionally later) in the story where there's a better opportunity for explanation.
  • Provide a set-up for the info. In the above mentioned scene, my first draft just had the plow plopped into the story. On the revised version, I had a character mention that this was the first year for her beau to drive the oxen and plow. She pointed, and the other characters looked. A perfect opportunity for my main character to describe the beau's struggles, and therefore the equipment itself, when normally the plow would be an object taken for granted and ignored, at least as far as description goes. Which leads in to my next point...
  • Don't force the explanation. Yes, there will always be info that we need to somehow convey to the reader that the characters already know. If we use the "As you know, John..." tactic, it will be obvious to our readers that the info is only there for his/her benefit. Instead find a way to convey the info in a way logical to the story. I read a novel by Michael J. Sullivan called Rise of Empire (it may have been another book in the series, but I know it was that author and series). As a writer, I was stunned at how beautifully he worked in the description of a typical falconing hunt. Because one of the main characters had recently been promoted to nobility, a knight enamored with her explained the whole process on her first hunt. After that scene, I just giggled at Sullivan's brilliance.


So the general rule of thumb: your reader wants to read a story, not sift through a bunch of stuff to find the story.

Friday, June 20, 2014

How Do I Write? Let Me Count the Ways...

This seems to be a topic I blog about from time to time (see Tackling the New Year or Overcoming (Writing) Adversity for more recent treatments), but I think that's because my methods are constantly changing. I think the way a writer gets himself/herself to write is a personal experience, and it is one that takes a lot of trial and error. For me in particular, it seems to be a constantly evolving process.

I've been to the workshops that tell you that you MUST write regularly, consistently, and daily. In theory, I probably agree with them; in practice, that's impossible for me.

My life is chaotic. I have a lot going on. Here's a brief sampling of my list of responsibilities:

  • Wife
  • Mother of 2 VERY active little boys
  • Full-time English teacher (with all of the lesson planning, prep, and grading to go with it)
  • Vegetable garden
  • Active church member with its associated activities
  • Stampin' Up (crafting) demonstrator
  • Any other project that comes along
Obviously, some of these activities take greater priority than others, but that's kind of the point. It's a balancing act. My husband has frequently suggested I drop some things, and I actually have. But what remains on my list fulfills such different and important parts of me and my personality that I honestly don't think I could give any of them up.

So back to writing. When does that happen amidst everything else?

Answer: whenever the heck I can make it happen.

One of the best things I heard in a conference was that I can give myself permission to NOT write. And that I need to find a schedule that works for me. I can tell you that what works for me probably won't work for you. But keep at it until you find your perfect combination.

Here are the things that are currently working for me and the advice you should take from them:
  1. I've been trying to wake up before school to write early in the morning. I'm not a morning person, and getting up when it's dark is exceptionally hard for me. But I can usually make myself get up about twice a week for a half-hour before school starts. That's not daily, but it's a whole lot better than not at all. Anything is better than nothing.
  2. As I mentioned above, I'm a teacher, so I'm off for the summer. I'm implementing a one-hour quiet time for my children in their bedrooms each day after lunch. That gives me a good hour of uninterrupted, silent time to work. That is rare in my house. Find a way to focus on your writing.
  3. I work best in the morning before the tasks of the day wear me out. But trying to balance that with sleep and early priorities is difficult sometimes. Some people write best before bed. Find the time of day that works best for you -- and be open to the fact that it may not be when you thought.
  4. Believe it or not, my critique group really helps me keep writing. We meet every other week, so I always have a consistent commitment to keep my skills honed. And it is an outside pressure that sometimes guilts me into doing something, even if inconsistently. Find some source of accountability to contribute something.
  5. This past year, I discovered that I need to write "seasonally." No, that doesn't mean I only write once every few months. I realized that I have less time to dedicate to my writing during the school year, so I write shorter works. I've really gotten into short stories and flash fiction. This allows me to feel some sense of accomplishment, even when I can't put as much time in as I'd like. In the summer, when I have slightly fewer things fighting for my attention, I can focus more on my novels. If you are feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or stagnant, try something different.
So here's my best advice: figure out what works for you and do it. If you keep writing a commitment for yourself, and you keep coming back to it, then there's no reason to feel guilty about what you "aren't" doing. Do the best you can for your situation and be comfortable with that. I've learned enough about the writers who are cranking out stories left and right to know that basically writing is the ONLY responsibility they have in their lives. Some of us just aren't that lucky. But that's okay because at least we're still writing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How Subgenres of Speculative Fiction Relate

Sometimes I've kind of wondered about the genre category of "speculative fiction" because it seems to be a collection of seemingly unrelated things. Basically, you can fit into spec fiction if your story can't be "real," but that leaves a broad range of styles. The four most common forms of spec fiction are: fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, and horror. I think most people are fairly familiar with the first three categories and what distinguishes them, so I'll spend most of my post today on the "horror" category. (If you already know the basics of the subcategories, don't bore yourself and skip down until "But...")

  • Fantasy - Fantasy tends to be just that - things that are fake and often magic-based. Usually we think of magical creatures, like dragons, wizards, elves, etc. (think Lord of the Rings). These types of stories tend to have a medieval setting (though not always). There are also stories of urban magical series that are more modernized, but still have a magical feel to them (think Mortal Instruments or Iron Fey series). And a less-known subcategory of fantasy involves a medieval setting without magic, but a storyline that couldn't or didn't happen.
  • Science Fiction (sci fi) - These are the stories where advanced technology plays a significant role in the story. There tends to be two branches: the alien stories (like Ender's Game), and everything else. A subgenre of sci fi that I particularly enjoy is dystopian stories (think Hunger Games or Divergent).
  • Paranormal - These are your ghost stories. Things beyond our world/realm interact with us somehow.
  • Horror is basically a story that "scares" you. That's its whole purpose.  
Now, these divisions aren't perfect. They frequently cross over each other. Which is probably why all these genres are grouped together into one parent genre. More and more modern authors are blurring the lines between fantasy and science fiction (like in Cinder). And is a zombie a case of advanced medical technology or epidemic gone wrong? Or is it a terrifying monster? And many people find ghosts frightening. 

But...

I realized a very fundamental difference between Horror and the other subgenres that is remarkably practical. That's really what I want to share with you. I think what really sets horror apart from the other stories - at least from a writer's perspective - is how a story scares you.

I've been reading collections of horror short stories off and on for a year or so. But it wasn't until a couple of months ago that everything clicked when I read a story that actually scared me.

I was reading a Stephen King story in the book 999. Basically in this story, the main character is intrigued by a strange painting at a garage sale, which he purchases. As he drives home, he looks at the painting from time to time, and the background always changes to show where he has traveled. (I'll tell you no more as I don't want to ruin the story...but it's Stephen King, after all.) I was reading this story in bed just before I went to sleep, which has never made a difference before. (I have a pretty strong constitution when it comes to consuming books.)  

I got halfway through the story, and I got creeped out. I had to put the story down and not finish it.  It wasn't that I was scared of noises in my house or anything like that. But I could see the direction the story was going, and I knew what (roughly) was going to happen. And I knew if I kept reading this story, I would have terrible, strange dreams all night long.

I knew the story was all pretend. And I've read horror stories my whole life, starting probably with the Scary Stories series, graduating to Goosebumps, and finally Christopher Pike and YA R.L. Stine. So if it was all fake, and I knew that, why was I creeped out so badly I had to put the story down?

And then it hit me.

Question: What scares us the most in real life? Answer: The things we don't understand. 
Question: What scares us the most in books? Answer: The things we don't understand.

All stories in the spec fiction genre have fantastical things that happen. But the difference is that horror is the only genre that does not answer how or why.

Don't believe me? Think about all the horror stories you've ever read. I did. And I don't think a single one of them really explained how the monster came to be. Instead it just appeared under the bed, or in the basement, or in the sewer with the sole intent of eating me. Or when terrible things happen to the main character, like bloody words on the wall, or - heaven forbid - a mysteriously changing painting, not once does the author take the time to explain how the blood appeared or what force is acting on the painting. It just happens.With no explanation.

And that scares the crap out of us.

Now think about sci fi, fantasy, or occasionally paranormal. All those genres have lots of space in them for explanation about how the technology works, or what types of magic are controlled by whom, or why there is suddenly a portal between the afterlife and today. In fact, there are classes at conferences and workshops about techniques on how to explain all these elements of your story. It's called world building, or sometimes fostering a magical economy.  

So the next time you really want to scare a reader, have something terrible and frightening happen. And then don't tell them why.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Perfect Ending to a Perfect Story (Hopefully)

We've invested a lot of time and energy into writing the perfect story, only to be faced with creating the perfect ending. We want our conflict wrapped up with a nice, neat bow, but we don't want to cheat our readers. My prime example of this faux pas is the Hunger Games series.

I loved about 2 1/2 books of this series, and was furious at the last half of the 3rd book. Suzanne Collins broke every promise she had made to her reader, and she broke many of the beginning rules of writing. I'll try not to spoil the story for those of you who haven't read it yet, and if you haven't read the series, you should...at least as a case study. But basically, Collins wrote her character into a corner (which is good practice, by the way), and then gave up trying to find a logical, believable way to get that character out of the corner (which is NOT a good practice). Plus her main character did not actively solve the conflict driving the entire series, and the difficulties in the romantic relationships were never resolved, but instead ignored and forgotten. It honestly felt like she had a deadline, ran out of time, and just threw together whatever she could come up with. In other words, a completely dissatisfying and frustrating ending for an otherwise enjoyable series.

Now that my rant is complete, for once, I think the rest of this post may be pretty short because I don't have anything better to say than what a quick search will reveal. (Here is a link to a particularly fun blog with different endings to practice and play with.)  About the only "new" thing I can contribute is what I do to finish a story.

It's hard for me to write about how I finish a story because the ending is something I think long and hard about, and really it's just a gut feeling when something works. My driving force is that I want my reader to leave my story with an emotional response that lingers with them. This takes various forms depending upon the genre and type of story I am writing.

In my medieval novel, roses play a significant role in the telling of my story. They are mostly symbolic of a whole bunch of related things. In fact, my working title is Roses of Chesterley. At the end of the story, my main character is pregnant and wants to name the daughter "Rose." Without giving away the whole story, my hope is that after going through the emotional and physical journey with my main character, the reader will understand the multiple layers of significance for both the character and the story in general by naming her daughter Rose.

An emotional story does not have to have a happy ending. In fact, in both of my horror stories (*spoiler alert*) my main character dies. But the character dies for a greater purpose, though that purpose takes different forms in each. Just because it's more of my personality, I still try to engender hope for the future, even in dark stories. I think this makes the reader think back to how I set up this hope throughout the story, which is exactly what I want.

So in other words, find that ending that makes your reader sit back and say, "Ahh," when they finish your story. Sometimes it takes multiple tries and lots of feedback from readers. But when your gut tells you that your bow is perfectly tied, both you and your reader will come back for more.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Top Eight Things I *Love* About Writing

http://www.123rf.com/
Why do writers write?  It's certainly not for the money. The major success stories are all we hear about, but they are actually so rare as to be laughable.  So why do writers write?

I think the answers are individual for each writer, but similar across many writers.  In honor of Valentine's Day, here are the top eight (8) reasons why I write:

1.     The creative process.  I love when I have a new idea in my head and I get excited about it.  I love to express those stories and put them on the paper for someone else to enjoy. The mental process of figuring out how to make a story work is fascinating and exciting.

2.     The escape. When I write, I get to create the world and events.  It allows me to be in control of how good (or bad) things are.  It rejuvenates me to face my own reality again. Writing is one of my outlets of stress relief; I can always make things worse for my character than whatever is going on in my life.  Whether directly related to my problems or not, my writing is exceptionally cathartic.

3.     The collaboration.  I love the opportunity (usually) to interact with other writers and discuss the craft of a story.  Sometimes it's hard to listen to what they have to say, but I know it's never personal.  Sometimes I just have a hard time believing their suggestions are better than what I thought, but they're usually right.  And if nothing else, they at least help me see my story in different ways, and that always makes it better.  I also love to help other writers figure out solutions to their problems or vice versa.  It's like a community puzzle with multiple solutions, and I love puzzle games.

4.     The opportunity for perfection.  Reality check: it will never be perfect.  I sometimes wonder if successful authors every read something they wrote after it's been published.  It drives me nuts that I always find something better to do with my story after I'm "done" with it.  But that also means I'm becoming a better writer, and I like that feeling.  Again, something I can control and always improve upon.

5.     The play with words.  As I've mentioned in other posts, I'm wordy.  I like words.  Actually, I have a love affair with words.  I love how they blend together both in your mouth and in your mind.  And I love coming up with that perfect combination of words that allows you to see my story.

6.     The invigoration.  I'm always rejuvenated after a good writing session.  I'm excited about my story, of course, but I'm also excited about life.  

7.     The accomplishment.  We as human beings are prideful, and that's not a bad thing as long as you keep it in check.  I love feeling proud of myself after I write an awesome story/chapter/scene/whatever.  (Inevitably, it never lasts long because my critique group lovingly tells me all the things that are wrong.  But at least I have those few moments.  And I appreciate their honesty always.)
http://www.cba-va.org/


8.     The education.  I learn a lot about other people as I try to make my characters authentic.  But mostly I learn a lot about myself, and that makes my own life and relationships better.

So what about you?  What would you add to this list?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

How I Plan to Tackle the New Year...at Least in My Writing

So many things about me that could use improvement. Some of those things I believe are just hopeless. But at least my writing is something I feel like I can constantly work on and see improvement.

My goals this year for my writing are not so much about my writing specifically, as they are about my commitment to writing. I have a very busy and full schedule, and so finding time for my writing is exceptionally difficult. The past few months, it has been almost nonexistent because I returned to teaching full time. Add that to the list: young kids, husband, house, crafting, church involvement, AND now preparing, teaching, and grading full time. Hence...no writing.

So here's my goal: write 500 words/30 minutes every day.

I know. That doesn't sound like much of anything. And it's not, but at least it's something. That's more than I'm getting done right now.

The past few months, I realized something - I've been sitting around waiting for a big chunk of time in which I could sit down and write something substantial. Obviously, it's not happening, so I need to adjust my expectations a bit. At least if I'm writing 500 wds/day, then I'm getting in 2500 words per week or 10,000 words a month. That's a heck of a lot better than maybe 2500 words every couple of months.

I do have a couple of "issues" with this goal that I will have to somehow overcome, and that will probably be a work in progress to find the right combinations. It seems that big chunks of time are better for me because I get into the flow of my story and have a hard time stopping. I'm going to have to train myself to start - and stop - on demand. That certainly won't be easy.

Time will be another factor. I've sorta been trying to achieve this goal for a couple of months, but even a half hour is difficult to eke out of my schedule. I absolutely HATE getting up in the morning; I am not a morning person at all. But past experience of another writing experiment taught me that I'm actually most productive if I get up and write before anyone else in the house is up. I'm already getting up at 6 to make it to school on time; this means I'll have to get up at 5:30. Not a pretty prospect for me. That definitely means I need to get to bed at a reasonable hour, like 10:00, every night, which is hard when the kids don't go to bed until 8, and then I just want to crash and relax or spend time with my hubby.

But I'm sure going to try.

And lately I've written a couple of stories that I'm kind of excited about, so an ancillary goal is that I'm going to try and submit at least a couple of stories to either publication or significant writing contests within the next year.

So wish me luck.
I'm gonna need it...