March 2010 - Posts

Work Habits
Tuesday, March 30, 2010 3:35 PM
Though I can't be sure how long my novel is going to be exactly in terms of word count or chapters, I think it's now safe to say that I'm halfway done, at least. I've written just shy of 75,000 words and fifteen chapters and I think my book will end up being somewhere between 125,000 words and 150,000 and around thirty chapters but probably something like 28 or 29. At this point I'd like to take a look back at my writing habits, since this is the first time in my life that I'm able to attack my writing endeavor full time and see what works and what needs improving.

I've noticed that Monday's, as with any job can be rough. I often have trouble getting starting and don't really start writing until the middle of the afternoon. Once I do start though, I'm able to get to work quickly and attack whatever project I'm working on, novel or short story and make significant headway on tuesday, wednesday and thursday. Friday is grab bag. Sometimes I mentally check out early, sometimes I get a lot done, sometimes I get a late start and then work like normal, sometimes I wind up working on some long forgotten story or experimenting with something entirely new. You just never know. I've also noticed that regardless of what day it is, if I'm really productive in the morning, the afternoon doesn't yield as much writing and vice versa.

To remedy these problems, when I find myself writing really well in the morning I try to carry through to the afternoon by waiting as long as possible to take a lunch break or by eating at my desk. Sometimes this works. Haven't figured out how to solve the problem of not working well in the morning other than to hope the pattern holds and get a lot done in the afternoon. As for Mondays, I find that if I stopped on the Friday before in a good place it's easier to get started again and this holds true for any day really. The problem is trying to stop everyday at a point that I would want to immediately pick up on tomorrow and do so without losing the momentum that usually carries me into especially exciting segments to write.

I've also learned that when I find myself just staring at the word processor to just get up and do something else for awhile. Anything else. Do chores, workout, run an errand, play a video game, browse the internet, just do something else. Nothing will come from just sitting and staring at the screen and I know that when that happens there must be a reason and whatever it is, at that moment I just can't put myself into the story I'm working on and instead of wasting time it's best to just do something else and come back to the work later. I believe this may even save time as well as the agony of trying to pull words out of myself like teeth. I enjoy writing and if I can be bold, I think I'm good at it. If I sit down to write and it isn't happening, there is a reason, whether I need to get something to eat or I have too much energy or what have you.

Until next time, I'm Eric and I'm an unpublished fiction writer.

62 days to deadline, 15 chapters complete.
by DMI | with no comments
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Sometimes to go Forward you have to go Back
Wednesday, March 24, 2010 3:13 PM

It's never too late while writing a story to go back and write scenes that happened before the beginning of the story or to do some peripheral writing about what a character whose POV is not assumed in the story is thinking or what the history between two characters is. These are examples of very important things for a writer to have thought out and to fully understand and there is no dictate that says this most be done before a story is started or at any other particular point in the writing process.

Just recently I found myself a little stuck while writing a chapter of my book. It wasn't writers block. I don't believe in writer's block. I was just a little stuck. I couldn't continue without be daunted by thoughts of why several characters were doing the things they were doing. I had a vague idea of their motivations and it wasn't crucial to the story but without a firm grasp on their exact thought processes I felt I couldn't write adequate dialogue for them.

My solution was simple. Instead of staring at the blinking cursor on the page (seldom a productive activity) I opened an empty word document and started free writing from the POV of another character. It helped me to see things a little better from where she was standing and therefore write her dialogue in a more believable way. It also helped flesh out a few things I already knew in my head but hadn't fully developed the ideas. Most importantly of all, it got me writing. I've often found when I'm stuck in one project it's good to put that piece aside and start on something else. I used to worry I'd get distracted and not come back to what I was really working on (I hate unfinished projects and the last thing I need is to jump from one story to the next every time I hit a bump) but that doesn't usually happen. Typically I don't get very far in the new project before I go back to what I was working on. Whether you want to call it pumping up the creative juices or getting a running start, it works.

I'm Eric and I'm an unpublished fiction writer.

68 days to deadline, 14 chapters complete.

by DMI | with no comments
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You've gotta read the 'zine
Friday, March 19, 2010 10:24 AM
I've said it before, but I'd like to reiterate the importance of reading the magazines that you submit to. Every magazine will tell you in their submission guidelines that to have the best chance of getting your work accepted you need to read know what sort of material they like but as the constant skeptic I have to admit that I thought they were just trying to get me to read their magazine. Obviously I have nothing against reading but I can't read all the magazines. I just don't have that kind of time on my hands. I'll admit I used to read none except what I could find for free online or available in the library (public libraries don't have much but university libraries usually have subscriptions to a lot of different 'zines). My wallet is thin. For christmas I asked for subscriptions to magazines and was happy to get a couple. Now that I'm reading these two on a regular basis, I have to admit that I really can tell a difference between what they publish and, the more I looked, I found patterns in what other magazines I've been a reader of over the years will take and that has made a sugnificent difference in how and what I write and where I then submit to first, instead of just sending my work to the highest paying market when I pen the final draft (though still not a bad idea just in case).

You don't have to follow the rule of read before your write, lord knows I don't always, there are just too many magazines and I have too many unpublished stories to do that kind of research. Most that I submit to I have read at least once and I always look at their website and find out as much as I can about them, but as I said, once you become an avid reader of a magazine you really start to pick up on the patterns of what they like, thematically and stylistically. If it works for me this blog will be the first place you'll hear about it.

Until next time, I'm Eric and I'm an unpublished fiction writer.

73 days to deadline, 13 chapters complete
by DMI | with no comments
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An Alternative
Monday, March 8, 2010 2:59 PM
Last week I posted a blog about how and why I don't self-publish, including why I don't put my material on this very blog, including the fact that magazines don't want to republish something that's been put on the web. Most magazines include the stipulation, however, that they won't publish anything that is in the public domain, as in available for anyone to see on the internet. An alternative so that my friends and family could read whatever I am working if they feel so inclined would be for me to set up (and I'm not totally sure how to do this although I think I did it in a college computer literacy course) a password protected webpage and have my material posted on their. Anyone who wanted to read it would need the web address, a user name and a password.

As I am always looking for readers but never want to haggle anyone to read my stuff, this may be a great, easy way to make my writing available to select people for feedback and essentially leave an open invitation for them to do so. This alternative is a promising compromise to the request I had from a friend to read more of my material online (he had read the short short I had published on 365 Tomorrows) while still maintaing the professional integrity of only accepting publication to legitimate forums for my work.

My web design skills are limited but I'm going to have to look more into this idea. Until then, back to the book.

My name is Eric and I'm an unpublished fiction writer.

84 days to deadline, ten chapters complete.
by DMI | with no comments
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Why I Don't Publish Here
Tuesday, March 2, 2010 5:14 PM
A friend of mine recently asked why I didn't put more of my work online and why I don't publish to my blog. I explained that in high school I had a live journal that I filled with poetry and young, amateurish drivel but even then I didn't consider myself published in anyway, not even self-published. Someone who self publishes at least pays to have their work in print, even if it's unedited, un-produced, and unfiltered in anyway (and unlikely to be read by anyone the author doesn't put the book in their hand). I recently saw a few science fiction writers speak in a symposium at USF and one of them noted that "any fool" can get published on the internet. In the sense that anyone can do what I'm doing now and make a blog for free and with relative ease and put written material on it, that is true.  Right now I could fill this blog up with dozens (and I mean dozens) of short stories or put them in a livejournal or break them up into tweets or all three plus some.

Problem is, that holds no real value, in part because it's just too damn easy and in part because no one would really care to read it. I know I wouldn't because, lots of people do that and I say pass. If I'm going to spend my time reading something I want it to be good. I want to know an editor with tastes I like looked at the piece and approved. Even if the magazine doesn't pay, only publishes online and is run by a volunteer staff of more or less amateurs who merely appreciate the medium and want to see more fiction available for people to read, it is still leaps and bounds ahead of anything published on a blog in my opinion. Just the act of having someone read what I wrote in a pile of possible work and say, "that one," makes having my material somewhere worth something more than having it just sitting on my desktop or a blog. 

It isn't about being snooty, it's about having standards, even if vague ones. It's the same reason I send a story to a high-paying journal with lots of readers before I send it to a low-paying (or no-paying) e-zine. Of course I want someone to read my stuff, but once it's online it's more or less worthless. A publisher won't touch it. It loses all value. So in part it's about getting paid and about trying to have a lot of people read what I've written instead of just my relatives and friends. But it's also about respectably. No one cares if I publish to my blog. People (readers, writers, editors, me) care if I'm in a magazine like Analog or The Atlantic Monthly.

So no offense blogiversity, but I won't be putting any of my writing up here anytime soon.

Until next time, I'm Eric and I'm an unpublished writer.

90 days to deadline, 10 chapters complete.
by DMI | with no comments
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