Tag Archives: Writing process

What I learned from posting a story a week for an entire year

So, I meant to write up and post these thoughts last year. Really. I did. I have longhand notes and everything. Then, well?

2021.

I may be a year late, but I think what I learned still stands the test of twelve months. I hope you think so too.

In November 2019, I conceived of the idea of posting a story a week for an entire year. With the upcoming presidential election in the US, I knew it would be rough going. I wanted to do something kind; I wanted a distraction; I wanted something to focus on other than the news. I even called the challenge The (Love) Stories for 2020 to remind me of my aim for love, compassion, and kindness.

Then, of course, 2020 actually happened. Oh, my sweet summer child—you had no idea, did you?

I’m not the sort of writer who could write and post a short story a week for an entire year. That’s not how I’m wired. (If you’re wired that way, more power to you; I am brimming with envy.)

That being said, I thought I’d share the things that helped me get through this challenge. I offer them up in hopes they might be useful.

Party like it’s 1999: Focus on what you love and what’s fun, what you’d do even if you never got any recognition or payment. This is essentially the dance like no one’s watching advice. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it does for me.

Plan like it’s 2020: If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that things happen. Things will continue to happen. They may be external things well beyond our control, like elections and pandemics. They may be other things, like graduations and weddings, all the joyful things in life. Peer into your crystal ball as far as you can and plan accordingly, which brings me to…

Scheduling is your new best friend: I blog on WordPress, but I imagine most platforms have a draft and scheduling function. Scheduling posts several weeks in advance gave me breathing room. It allowed me to work on new and not-quite-there-yet stories.

Inventory on hand: Related to scheduling is having a fair amount of inventory on hand. Again, I’m not a fast writer. I might be able to write a story a week, but I’m not sure I could write a story a week that’s ready for prime time, so to speak. Also? In April 2020, I got Covid. Between inventory on hand and scheduling, I continued the challenge until my body and brain were back online.

It will take more time than you think it will: Always. Trust me on this one.

The takeaway:

A challenge like this is a way to create and/or preserve a body of work. The content is evergreen and can have more than one use. When you own the rights to your work, you can do any number of things with it.

There are those external rewards, such as blog traffic, SEO, comments, and finding new readers. But for me, the results went far beyond the external.  

I loved discovering what resonated with readers. Some of my “just for me” stories resonated so strongly with others that it helped me trust my inner voice a bit more, which spilled over into Season Four of Coffee and Ghosts. I’m not sure I would’ve written that without completing this challenge first.

I loved spending time with my own voice, rediscovering patterns and themes in my own writing.

In a world that’s always so loud, both online and off, it’s easy to miss what’s surprising and unique about your own voice. My 2020 challenge helped me reconnect with that.

So, what are you waiting for? Go forth and concoct your own challenge. But remember:

Always plan like it’s 2020 (or 2021).

But party like it’s 1999.

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Looking back, looking forward and Happy New Year

So in 2021, I managed the following:

  • Wrote 103,000 words (mostly on Season Four of Coffee and Ghosts)
  • Read 103 books

I liked the symmetry of that so much, I purposely didn’t finish reading a book on the 31st.

And while I’ve had better writing years, I’ve had much worse. Considering the state of everything in 2021, it could’ve been much, much worse. Not only am I really pleased with how Season Four of Coffee and Ghosts turned out, but I also had a lot of fun writing it.

I also started a Little Free Library this year. Traffic’s a little slow now that the snow and cold have arrived, but readers are slipping in new books and taking others. In the spring, I hope to do more with it. It will be easier for all once you don’t have to mount the snowbank just to peek inside.

What didn’t work in 2021: Weekly writing check-ins. Lately, I’ve found I don’t have much to say, at least not about my writing progress on a weekly basis.

I’ve been blogging in some form since 2003, and I’m certainly not going to stop now. Okay, I just did the math, and that’s nearly twenty years. In that time, I’ve changed platforms and formats, what I write about, and a variety of other things. I think it’s time to change and grow again, but in what direction, I’m not sure.

It may take all of 2022 to figure that out. But for now, I’ll wish everyone a Happy New Year. May 2022 bring you the peace and joy you need.

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Weekly writing check-in: Stuck in the middle with me

I may have mentioned that I have a time travel series idea that’s been knocking around inside my head for about … four years now.

I never claimed to be a fast writer.

Or thinker, as the case may be. I pondered season four of Coffee and Ghosts for a good four years before I sat down to (seriously) write it. True, I did do a trial run in 2020, but I jettisoned it because … 2020.

When I tried again this year, it only took me six months to write 100,000 words. That’s not a bad pace, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The entire story includes pondering and note-taking and letting it all simmer.

Instead of being frustrated by this, I’ve decided to embrace it and make it fun. Because it’s not changing. How do I know this? I’ve tried. Oh, how I’ve tried. I have learned that I’m not one of those zippy writers who can write a book a month.

I’ve attempted to adhere to the pithy writing advice of Don’t think, write.

Guess what? It doesn’t work for me. What I get is a mess of a draft or a story that’s anemic.

I also don’t outline. I take lots of notes, create a framework or a roadmap, but I don’t go beyond that, either. And yes, I’ve tried to meticulously outline as well. When I do that, I overcomplicate the story.

So here I am, plotters to the left of me, pantsers to the right, stuck in the middle with me.

Only now, I’m owning it.

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Weekly writing check-in: a few of my favorite (writerly) things

When it comes to writing tools, I’m low-tech, perhaps surprisingly so, considering I work for a software company.

I’ve tried various applications, and mind you, I wouldn’t format anything without Vellum these days.

But … when it comes to actually writing?

I love notebooks and pens, in particular:

  • Legal pads
  • Composition notebooks
  • Sugarcane based, spiral-bound notebooks
  • Uni-ball Vision Elite pens in blue/black

Yes, it’s a very specific list, is it not?

I do write in Microsoft Word most of the time, especially when my fingers can’t keep up with my thoughts. But I’ll often write entire flash fiction pieces or start a short story in a notebook instead. Sometimes the story is coming to me in pen speed rather than pixel speed.

So, this week, after peering into February, I started looking at March, along with stories for August and September. Ideally, I’d get all the stories scheduled so I can move onto this other notion I have brewing.

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Writing on Wednesday: Interview over at Women on Writing

Sending you over to the Women on Writing blog if you want to read a bit about coffee, ghosts, submitting stories, and a host of other writerly things.

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Sucker Literary Blog Hop: the hop continues!

Sucker Literary Magazine Vol 3As promised last week, Shelli Cornelison is continuing the blog hop for Sucker Literary Magazine.

So hop on over and read all about her writing process.

Also, you can read a review of Volume 3 over at Wendi Kay’s blog.

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Sucker Literary Blog Hop

Sucker Literary Magazine Vol 3It’s the Sucker Literary Blog Hop! I’ve been tagged by Kip Wilson (you can see the answers to her questions here), and at the end of this post, I’ll tag the next writer on the list.

So, it’s not often you come across a group of questions that can be answered with the same phrase. In this particular case, that phrase would be:

You got me.

Along with a shoulder shrug.

But since these questions are part of the blog hop, I will give them a go.

1) What am I working on?

I’m working on a story that has been knocking around in my head for about four years now. It’s … whimsical. Also, it’s not YA. But one day, I said to myself: why not write it? Nearly 80,000 words later … I think I’m nearing the end. It’s been a lot of fun and a great exercise in third person POV. I spent last year writing a lot of first person POV, so I felt out of practice with third.

In the end, this may simply be a practice novel, but I’m having too much fun with it to care.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

You got me. Seriously. I don’t know. Anyone want to answer this one for me?

3) Why do I write what I do?

I’m tempted to answer: Because it comes out that way.

More seriously, I write what I do to fill some sort of hole. I want to hear a story this way, or see a character do that. The opposite is also true. I often write to get something out of my head (see #1 above re: the story knocking about in my head for four years). If my thoughts keep returning to a character, story, situation, it means I’m not done with it yet.

4) How does my writing process work?

I’ve been writing long enough that it’s clear (at least for me) that there is no one perfect process. Each story is different. I’m a different writer after I finish each story. The one thing, however, that is crucial is this:

Finish.

It doesn’t matter so much how you finish the work, just do so. When I reviewed what I did last year with Write 1/Sub 1, my biggest regret was over the stories I didn’t finish–mainly because, at the time, I thought they were stupid or silly or not good enough.

And really, what you think about a story in the moment has little or no bearing on what it really is or what it might become. So. Finish.

That is all.

Next up is Shelli Cornelison. Shelli lives just outside of Austin with her husband, too many dogs, and just one cat. They’re occasionally graced with the presence of a college student home for the weekend in search of food and money. Shelli is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Writers’ League of Texas.

She primarily writes picture books and young adult novels, but she sometimes ventures off into a short story. Her young adult short fiction has been published in the literary journal, Sucker Literary and at Young Adult Review Network (YARN).  You can find her on Twitter at: @Shelltex.

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Ten day challenge day 8: writing routines

10 Day Write Blog Challenge button200

Jumping back on board with day #8. Today’s prompt:

Post about your writing routines / rituals / habits or quirks – or – your writing origins story

The key word in the above is routine. Not rut. Not chore. But routine, like exercise routine. (See post #6 in this challenge where I write about exercise.) The benefit of a routine–or habit–is that you remove the decision-making part of the process–and the angst that surrounds it. Now is the time I exercise. Now is the time I write. Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance.

You know, like that.

Anyway, after I eat my lunch, then I write. Since I’ve been doing this on a regular basis, I’ve discovered that some of my best days happen when I walk in without any idea what to write. I do mean nothing. Not a clue. No muse. No inspiration. But! It’s time to write. So. I go do it. Often, I have a conversation that goes like this:

Me: You’ve got something brewing back there, right?
Unconscious Mind: Don’t I always?
Me: …
UM: No, really, I do. It’s only when you force it and think too hard that I don’t. I’m shy that way.
Me: Right.
UM: I always have your back, as long as you don’t think.
Me: I’ll stop thinking.
UM: Good girl.

Or something like that. The hard part is trusting yourself to do this. But this idea is hardly original to me. In fact, I’ve borrowed this idea from Ray Bradbury. On a card I carry with me, I have these three rules from Zen in the Art of Writing:

  1. Work
  2. Relax
  3. Don’t Think

Need a bit more convincing? Here are seven more rules from Mr. Bradbury. See if they don’t resonate.

 

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