Category Archives: Writing

A Writer’s Work is Never Done

The first lesson I learned as a writer is I will never write the perfect story.

In fact, just when I think a story or book is as good as it can be, someone comes along and says, “Nope. It needs this…”

For instance, I finally received a response to one of my proposals that I had submitted a few months ago. It’s a rejection, but a positive one (yes, there is such a thing). Most of the time a rejection is either no response or a simple “Thanks, but no thanks.”

This rejection says in part: “The genre is potentially a good fit for our press, and many of your underlying concepts of worldbuilding are intriguing; however, we think that this story might benefit from a developmental edit to help balance out the various characters’ points of view and to regulate the balance of pacing between the characters’ internal processing and the action in the story. While we won’t be pursuing this manuscript any further at [this] time, we would welcome a resubmission after edits.”

So it’s a “sort of” rejection. I’m nonetheless now researching editors to see if they can help me with the issues above, and hopefully make my story even better to justify a resubmittal. There’s still no guarantee they’ll accept my manuscript, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

My not-so-secret hope is that any suggestions don’t require a complete rewrite, or I have to reimagine the entire story including the world, plot, and characters. I’m already working on a new novel, so diving into another one at the same time will be quite the challenge.

Good thing I’m still off social media…

Aside: In researching what graphic to use at the top, I typed in “work images.” Over 95% of the pictures were computer/office related. No construction, welding, farming, ranching, or other physical labors. I can think of many reasons why that is, including audience. After all, I’m on a computer, so it stands to reason looking for work images would be related to computers… Still, I hate to think the browser algorithm programmers don’t think that jobs where working on roads, buildings, etc., isn’t considered real work.

Now it’s time for me to go back to work…

A Time and Place

Every year the South Dakota Humanities Council holds a book festival where authors can purchase booths to sell their books. Along with that authors and college and university professors give workshops, readings and other presentations pertaining all things literary. It’s usually held in the Black Hills of South Dakota (this year was supposed to be in Deadwood).

Unfortunately due to the thing-that-shall-not-be-named, the council decided to cancel the festival and go all virtual. Because some of the workshops and other presentations looked interesting and informative, myself and two others decided to sign up and attend.

My favorite workshop on Friday was titled “Flash Forms Workshop” hosted by Joseph Holt (https://www.holt.ink/). It was about writing and understanding flash writing. He’s definitely a teacher in that he encouraged—and expected—lots of audience participation. His passion for writing was infectious. I managed to peek out of my virtual shell a few times (although I had issues with my microphone) and asked a few questions and added comments in the chat. He gave us some prompts and gave us ten minutes to do some free writing on those prompts.

In those ten minutes I wrote something that was rather outstanding–if I may say so myself. It’s good enough, in fact, I’m going see if I can get it published. It won’t work for the flash fiction magazine I currently edit for, but it might work for a different one.

At the end of Joe’s presentation, he gave us a few names of publications that specialize in flash form writing that look promising

The second day, however, was a bit of a frustrating disappointment.

Let me just start with this: I don’t care what a person’s politics are. If I am going to attend any class or workshop, I expect the presenter or instructor to stick to the subject at hand and not spout their political views. Even if I happen to agree with their politics, it’s still irrelevant and a waste of my time. It’s not why I’m there.

Unfortunately, during two of the events I was looking forward to, the presenters barely touched on the subject and instead focused on, shall we say, other matters. I ended up leaving both of them within ten minutes.

The nice thing about attending via Zoom, leaving the “room” was a bit easier than it would have been in person. No one to stare after me wondering why I was leaving with my jaw clenched.

There is a time and a place for politics, so unless the subject is about politics all personal political views need to stay out of the classroom–virtual or otherwise.

A Single Step

So far my fears that I no longer had the wherewithal to start let alone finish a new novel may have been a bit unfounded. By simply starting to write, my brain’s creative center (if there is such a thing; I don’t know my brain anatomy all that well) has seen markedly increased activity.

I started with a new character, a teenage boy (about 14) named Ciman which means “inquisitive.” And he is indeed inquisitive! The story begins with him hearing some strange noises in the nearby woods, and whatever made the sounds smells oddly of cooked meat and rotten eggs.

His curiosity soon overwhelms his fear…

Except he doesn’t discover what the thing is, because his sister comes along to tell him he has chores to do.

What happens next? Does he ignore his sister and step into the woods, or does he obey and not risk getting the switch from his mother (he has endured said switch aplenty, so much so he even named it)?

Don’t know yet. I haven’t written it. As a “pantser” (one who doesn’t outline before writing a story), it’s as much a journey of discovery for me as it is for the reader.

All I know is he eventually discovers what lurks in the woods, but whether it’ll be friend or foe? I ain’t tellin’! Don’t want to ruin the surprise if it ever gets published…

Happy Saturday, all! I hope it’s fun and perhaps even a little productive depending on your goals for today.

Oh, and some housekeeping: Since I now have more time to write, I do plan on updating this blog more often. I’ll try not to exceed once a week, though. Your time is valuable, and I don’t want to take up so much of it you end up ignoring any updates.

It’s Official

I’ve been debating for the last six months or so whether or not to kick myself off social media for a time. I did it once for a year, and I accomplished more than I expected. So many fewer distractions.

Yesterday I made the plunge and even deleted the apps off all my devices so I won’t be tempted to click on them. Sure, I can still use a browser. Doing so, however, takes a bit more effort; the icons aren’t right there, and will therefore be less tempting.

In the last two days I’ve written two pages of the sequel to my fantasy.

Yet I’m already having issues…

I’ve been editing more than writing over the last several years, shutting up my internal editor has been, shall we say, a challenge. Most of my writing has been either my blog, social media posts or short stories. I’m not as yet confident I can still pull off an entire novel.

Funny considering when I first started writing, novels were the only kind of writing I could do; short stories were the challenge!

The question now is how long to keep myself off. A year would be the goal, but I don’t know if it’ll be possible. Not because I desire to dive back in per se, but if I manage to hook a publisher, they’ll expect me to do much of my own marketing and advertising—requiring the use of social media. Not a bad thing, really, because then I could be better focused on using social media more effectively, and not merely for personal use and entertainment (I use “entertainment” lightly).

My blog here is also the exception. I actually invited my Facebook friends to follow me here if they wanted to stay in contact. Don’t know if any will, but I hope they do.

Contractural Manipulation

When asked, “What is a writer?”what’s the first thing to come to mind? Is it one who tells a good story? Seems logical. Yet what does that entail? What makes a good story?

Action? Adventure? Suspense? Satisfaction? Escape? All the above?

Or does it run deeper?

At least for female readers (I’m not arrogant enough to assume I know what the average male reader looks for in a story), it’s the emotional connection to the characters. She wants to feel the joy, sadness, fear and yes, even horror, the characters feel.

I want readers my (male and female alike) to feel all of that. I want them to laugh, cry, be terrified, and shout with joy along with my characters.

As I printed out the latest chapter of my WIP for my local writers group, I couldn’t stop myself from grinning when I thought, “This chapter is going to make them weep.”

Even as I thought it, a part of me felt a twinge of guilt. Why should I look forward to making people cry? To gleefully manipulate their strongest emotions?

Because it’s in the unspoken/unwritten contract between writer and reader. It’s why we read. We want our emotions stirred, piqued, and yes, even manipulated. And as a writer, I should never shy from that fact. The moment I do so, my story falls flat and isn’t worthy of the figurative or literal paper it’s written on.

Living Up to Subtitles

The subtitle of my blog is “A Writer’s Journey.” Yet when I read through my entries over the last few years, other than chronicling the occasional writers conference, I’ve talked of anything but.

I’ve been writing (obviously), but as far as sharing my pursuit of publication, not so much. How can I write about something I’m not doing?

Yep, I’ve been lazy. Procrastination is a real thing—if largely self-inflicted.

I managed to fight off the lazy/procrastination bug this time. Yesterday I sent off the two requests for proposals that I mentioned in a previous entry.

So now I get to wait. Always my strong suit (not). I have to force myself not to check my email 156 times a day.

Although, much to my surprise and delight, one of the editors emailed me back saying my proposal was received and will be delivered to the appropriate team to read through. Normally a publisher/agent won’t send a response unless it’s an acceptance, rejection, or request for more information. This is the first time I received an acknowledgment that it was received.

The best part is I now don’t have to worry about my submission getting lost in email limbo (the other was submitted through an online submission form).

This publisher prefers series over stand-alone novels. The one I sent is currently just one book, but as I do with all my novels, I leave a door or two open for more. That means I should probably start the second… Even if they don’t take it, I should probably write it anyway. Most publishers prefer series over stand alone novels, especially for sci-fi and fantasy.

At the very least doing so will keep me off social media. I’m a bit frustrated with it all at the moment. It seems people can only talk about the one thing-that-shall-not-be-named, and I’m not inclined to participate. It’s not beating a dead horse at this point, it’s pounding the poor horse’s sun-bleached bones into dust.

Realm Makers – Day 2

The problem with writers conferences is so much happens. Boiling it all down into a manageable chunk can be… challenging. After all the classes and workshops, the brain gets full. Mine’s so full, I think it’s leaking out my ears. Or at least should be. Or maybe I just need to clean out the wax…

My favorite part of the day had nothing to do with the classes or on my appointments (more on that in a bit).

The Havok Magazine team met for lunch at a Greek sandwich shop called Dino’s (yummy. I love me some Greek Gyros). I was good today and ordered a Greek salad instead of a gyro, though. I ate myself stupid yesterday and knew I would be eating myself stupid again for supper. They cancel each other out, right?

Anyway, at lunch, one of the Havok volunteers thanked me for publishing one of her short stories, and later one of the authors for whom we accepted just last week also thanked me. I didn’t expect such sincere gratitude, because even though I sent the acceptance letters, the choosing and editing is a team effort. I can take some, but certainly not all the credit.

One of the sessions I’m attending is on finding readers and being irresistible to them. Not so much about marketing, per se, but about looking at marketing in a different way. Because most readers despise the idea. Instead, he said, reframe it into building relationships instead of making a sale. That’s the one thing that always drove me away from the idea. I’m not a salesman (or woman). I see it as trying to take advantage, or seeing my readers, not as people, but as walking wallets. I never want to even appear that way. So what I need to do is soul search a bit to find what about me and my writing will attract readers, and what can I do to build a relationship with them? It’s a tough question that may take a while to answer.

Which segues me into my first appointment. I presented my fantasy which the editor was intrigued enough to ask for a proposal. Not the complete manuscript, but no matter. It’s a step in the right direction (plus it gives me time to tweak it in a few areas I know need tweaking). I also asked for advice on where to find potential readers, which for fantasy and sci-fi is mostly Instagram and TikTok. She also gave me some people to follow to see how they use Instagram that I can emulate.

As for my second appointment, I presented my mainstream sci-fi story, because her publishing house leans more mainstream/secular audiences. I stumbled a bit when she asked what my main character’s arc was. For some reason I drew a blank, because, at least in the first book, it’s a bit multitudinous, and continues on into the trilogy (the second of which is complete). Once she asked if it was more than one, then I was able to tell her the overall arc. Whew! Bullet dodged! She also asked me submit a proposal as well as gave me some great advice on how to fix my first chapter (which had fairly important, but easily fixed issue). The best compliment she gave me was, “Your voice is sci-fi. I can see that right away.” I always question my voice and if it’s a fit for whatever genre I’m writing in. That it fit with this book is a big relief.

But it’s getting late, so I will say good night now.

“Good night now!”

Gotta ‘nother full day of classes tomorrow. No appointments, though, which takes away some of the stress.

For the Love of…

I can’t say I truly love language. If I did, I would have spent a lifetime studying more than my native tongue and digging deeper into its intricacies. If anything, when I write, I do so largely by instinct. I can define few of its rules such as “dangling participle” without having to look it up first.

I can, however, say I love the idea of it. I love how it can be used as a weapon as easily as it can heal. It brings people together, encourages creativity. It also causes wars and strife.

God loves language. He created the universe by speaking it into existence (Genesis 1:1-31 & Ps. 33:6). One of Jesus’ names is the Word of God (John 1). Scripture warns us of its power to destroy as well as create (see Proverbs 11:9, 15:4, 16:24 & 18:21).

Yesterday while perusing Netflix, I saw the description of the movie (based on the book by the same name), “The Professor and the Madman” (2019): “Completing the first dictionary will take a bit of smarts and a bit of madness. The words will come eventually,” I was of course intrigued. It’s about how the Oxford Dictionary was first written, the challenges of such a massive endeavor, and how it nearly failed without the help of a criminally insane murderer who alone submitted over 10,000 words.

Mel Gibson plays the professor and Sean Penn plays the madman. Incredibly acted by both, and the dialog alone is fantastic. One quote in particular stuck with me:

“… for every word in action becomes beautiful in the light of its own meaning.”

Words matter; their definitions equally so. Because without their definitions including their etymology (origin), they become flat if not ultimately meaningless—a bunch of letters strung together and nothing else.

Which is why I get particularly grumpy when people (especially our government and other powers that be—including the current Oxford Dictionary publisher, ironically enough) try to erase or ban words, or change their meaning to either make them meaningless or the direct opposite of their origin.

We must protect words and their definition/origins as we would anything else we hold dear, because without language, we can no longer call ourselves human.

A Smorgasbord

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I posted an entry. Where did the time go?

My mind has been kinda… full, I guess you’d say. From editing short stories for “Havok Magazine” and chapters submitted by two writers groups, taking some online courses on writing and focusing on God as I write, beginning a bible study on the book of Daniel, working full time, and all other typical daily routines, I don’t suppose I should be surprised I haven’t been keeping up here.

Yet I have been trying to write a daily paper journal. That’s been fun. A change of pace. I still have good handwriting, too!

The nice thing about keeping a paper journal is I don’t have to worry about self-censoring, because I know no one will read it. At least not until I purposefully show someone. Or after I’m dead.

I don’t do that much, here, either, but that’s because I know you, my readers aren’t going to call me names for voicing an opinion you don’t like. I appreciate that, so thank you!

Quite a few years ago, I kicked myself off social media for an entire year. I ended up writing over 250,000 words. Talk about productive! With all the current upheaval of social media, I’m thinking it’s time to do it again. Taking every Sunday off has helped my peace of mind, but I think it’s not enough anymore. It’s a terrible place at times, and I too often feel depressed or at least anxious after spending a few minutes there. God’s way of telling me to walk away, perhaps?

One thing I won’t quit is this blog, though. I like it here, and I still long to put my words out there. I just need to be smarter about it. More focused.

I’m also reading more. For fiction I’m reading Brandon Sanderson’s “The Stormlight Archive, Books 1-3.” I’m 450 words into the over 3400 word story. It’s a good thing I read fairly fast!

For non-fiction, I go back and forth with Matt Walsh’s, “Church of Cowards” and Dennis Prager’s, “Rational Bible: Genesis.” Both are meaty books, so I take those in small doses.

What books are you reading?