Story successes and a short lecture about money.

I haven’t been writing here because I’ve been really trucking along in my novella — over 10,000 words in the rough draft! Technically, that’s about halfway, though this draft might be longer than that. I’m trying to be okay with the fact that I’ll have to go back and change a bunch of stuff to make the story work. All part of the revision process, right? I think my fear is that I’ll die or become a vegetable before I’m able to fix the mistakes I’ve made… but that’s something I should probably take up with a therapist.

In any case, I didn’t come here to be a sourpuss again. I came to talk about one of my most favorite things about writing — which is when stories surprise you by taking a different turn than you originally intended. I don’t know how this happens, because it means that someone who is not me (me = conscious me) is running the show and coming up with the good ideas.  This makes me feel slightly inadequate, as the not-me clearly thinks it has better ideas, and usually it is right. Nevertheless, there is something magical about sitting down to write with a relatively clear idea of what you want to say and where the story is going to go, and then having this whole other concept bubble up out of your subconscious swamp, lashing all your loose ends together and creating some awesome origami crane out of the whole thing (to mix about a million metaphors). This just happened to me, and I’m so excited to keep writing, even though it means I’ll have to go back and fix all those mistakes from earlier in the story. Barring death and/or a vegetative state.

Funny how just yesterday I was stuck in a seemingly endless rut of a scene. How does this happen? These ideas can’t come from nothing, and yet as far as my conscious thoughts go, they just didn’t exist as of a half hour ago.  How can you write a story and have no idea what it’s about… until, suddenly, it all becomes clear?  It almost makes me feel like a hack — that what I would define as “skill” has little to do with the quality of the product, since so much of it is unintentional. Or maybe I just need to redefine what this skill means.  Unless I’m the only one out here who’s just doddering around, poking at a story until it gets fed up with me and decides to make something of itself, at which point I say “Lookit what I did!” and take all the credit.

On an unrelated note, another thing I love is riding my bike to the garden and picking vegetables to use that same evening for dinner. Squash and beets were on the menu two nights ago… last night was rainbow chard. The tomatoes are starting to come in, and soon I’ll be drowning in grapes! Pictures of the garden soon, I promise. I want to be just like Pam.

Oh, so I guess the upshot of this is that I’ve been meeting my Write-a-Thon goals. This week is the last week of Clarion West and the last week of the Write-a-Thon, so if you have some pocket change to spare, go ahead and sponsor my ass. Or sponsor the rest of me, whichever you prefer. Or someone else, if you like their picture better.

And one last thing — the Brain Harvest Mega Challenge is open for submissions until August 31st! You should enter. It’s a really fun contest, and it has cash money prizes and a celebrity judge. Plus, it’s a fundraiser for Brain Harvest so we can continue to pay writers pro-rates. All of the reading fee money goes toward that and paying the prizes.  This is not a sinister plot wherein we BH editors are going to run off to Mexico with your five bucks. It’s a worthy cause, so quit your bitching, all of you that are whining about “money flowing toward the writer.” The long view is that if you want money to flow toward you, you have to make a small initial investment. How else do you think we pay for this damn magazine? Our trust funds? Hardly. So invest in your community and have a little fun doing it.

Yes, thank you, I would love some cheese with my whine.

I certainly don’t want to start off this blog sounding like a complainy-puss, but you have no idea how hard I’ve been fighting for those meager 1300 words. And here’s a little secret – *they’re from two different stories*.  But! Words are words, and maybe I can make my weekly goal after all.

I think my problem is this: I’ve gotten into some really bad writing habits recently. I’ve been starting things, freaking out, and then not finishing them, which then puts me in a mindset that finishing stories is hard or that I’m going through a phase that I should just wait out or… something. So yeah, I know I should just push through, or at least, that’s what I always tell people, but y’know, it’s different when it’s you.

The story I’m working on right now is part of an incomplete idea that came to me while I was watching the nifty little indie film Wristcutters, which is about people who commit suicide and then find themselves in a sort of purgatory for people who have committed suicide, which essentially amounts to a slightly shittier world than the one they came from, where the landscape looks like Nevada and nobody smiles. Anyway, this is neither here nor there, as my idea has to do with a person who wakes up every morning in a different house and has to clean that house from top to bottom. Only when she’s finished does the sun set and she can go to bed, and upon waking up again, finds herself in a different house.

It’s a premise I enjoy, but as with most new ideas, it needs more to it to make it a story. Hence my frustration, as I haven’t figured out what that story is yet.

My other theory about my current difficulties is that I’m not reading enough fiction. In fact, since Clarion West, I have had a very difficult time finishing full-length books of fiction. I’ve done okay with short stories and even a YA novel or two, but the stack on my bedside table keeps getting taller and more gruesome. I’ve begun to avoid looking at it altogether.

Or maybe I just need a break. Maybe I should go look at things other than this computer screen for awhile. That might be the best option. Nevertheless, I will have 1700 more words by Sunday, mark my… er… words!

Progress!

Well, it’s better than nothing.  I’ve still got four days to catch up!

I was going to include a picture of the cool new USB microphone that I got to record Brain Harvest‘s very first podcast (and future audio projects), but I seem to have lost my camera.  Here’s a link to it.

BH readers voted for the story to be podcasted… but you’ll just have to wait and see which story won.   Hopefully I’ll have time to play around with the mic soon and learn how to use sound editing software. We’d like to get the podcast up ASAP, but I suspect there will be a bit of a learning curve so this first one might be a bit delayed. Anyone have any sound editing tips? The last time I did anything like this was in 1998, and I’m no Computer Expert, but I’ll bet things have changed since then. I’ll be using Adobe Soundbooth and/or Soundtrack Pro.

Clarion West Write-a-Thon, Day 3

I made a promise to myself and to all those reading my page for the Write-a-Thon that I would write 3000 words a week, or the equivalent of six stories.

Well. Here we are, nearly halfway through the first week, and I’ve written approximately zero words. I can make excuses – I was out of town on Sunday, I had to work my other day-job-that-shall-not-be-named (not this job, which I love) on Monday, and today, well, today I just had to stare at a blank screen for three hours waiting for inspiration to strike. I don’t think I have been this bereft of ideas since the first week of Clarion West last June.

A psychological connection, perhaps?

In any case, I’m going to catch up, starting tomorrow. I will be writing a story to submit to the Shine Anthology, which my dear friend Raj pointed out to me, because it’s good to  have concrete goals.  The story is going to be about… something something climate change something something geoengineering. But really, it will be about relationships, because aren’t they all?

If you have faith in my ability to get my shit together, won’t you please sponsor me in the Write-a-Thon, so future generations can also get writers’ block? Every little bit helps.  And if you are lacking in faith, try some of the other writers who are more disciplined than I.