Monday, February 19, 2018

To Count or Not To Count?

Steven James wrote a great post - "From 2000 to 300 - Why You're Writing Too Much" - over at Writer Unboxed about writers and word counts.

"The whole paradigm strikes me as an odd way to go about producing works of art . . . I should say, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong about the technique, but I do think it can be restrictive, arbitrary, and doesn’t take into account the realities of the unforeseen, the bursts and surges and bubbles of creativity. In short, I think it puts an artificial constraint on the artistic process."

Whew! I'm not the only one struggling with making word count goals work. It's a shame, too, because I love the idea of visual progress - a stack of pages, a neat row of numbers. I want to feel like I accomplished . . . something

Now, this concept of word count works for me during NaNo, when I attack that first draft with the energy, focus, and intensity of a tortoise hunting a banana. In my normal writing life, though, I am much slower, more deliberate. I delve into characters' backstories, layer subplots, travel back and forth in time, move from notebook to computer. Some days, the only words I write are scrawled on my mind's notepad with invisible ink. 

So, instead of feeling bad that word count goals don't work for me, I'm going to remember the following:

"In short, strive for quality, not quantity. Rather than tracking word count, make sure every word counts and create work you can be proud of and that will entertain and impact readers for years to come."


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Do you use word count goals to keep your writing on track? Or do you use some other method? Does it depend on the project? Do you usually feel productive or do you constantly think you're not doing enough?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Make Something Happen

One of my big goals this year is to take my horror novella/novel as far as I can then move to the next step . . . whatever that is. Is it sending it to beta readers? Is it hiring a professional editor? Is it querying agents? I don't know. And right now, that's okay.

What I do know is that I have to Write. This. Book.

I'm tired of not writing it.

I'm tired of whining about not writing it (as are my husband and the tortoises!)

I'm tired of complaining, crying, envying, moping.

I'm tired of watching time tick by, taking my dreams with it.

So, I am heeding these words -


"YOUR CAREER IS IN YOUR HANDS NOW.
MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN."
(Janet Reid)


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How's your writing career going? Are you in the process of making something happen? And what does that "something" look like for you? Is it getting a novel written, going to a conference, learning a new marketing/publishing/social media tool? 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

IWSG: Slow. Steady. Strong.


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In January's IWSG post, I talked about how I had two big goals for 2018, and that's where I was putting the majority of my effort and energy.

Well, for both my writing and my running goals, progress has been slower than tortoises who don't want to leave their heat lamp on a cold day. (But who can blame them? There were days this winter I wanted to crawl in with them!) Everything is taking so much longer - and is a whole lot harder - than I'd thought.

But then I remind myself that what I'm doing is building a solid foundation for my story and my health.

Slow. Steady. Strong. This is what I say when I sit down to write, when I need to figure out the logic of a major plot point before I can even get to the actual writing, when I need to cut a character I love because he no longer serves the story.

Slow. Steady. Strong. This is what I chant - ok, gasp - when I run. It's what I tell myself when I put on my sneakers, when I worry about people in passing cars laughing at me, when I don't think I can make it to the next corner.

But I'll get there. And so will you. Don't give up on your goals, your resolutions, your plans. It'll probably take a while, maybe even all year, but we can do this. It's only February, after all.

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What do you do when progress feels non-existent? How do you stay focused and patient? What do you tell yourself - mantras, cheers, quotes - when you need encouragement? 

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Don't forget to visit my wonderful co-hosts: Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, and Victoria Marie Lees.

Monday, January 22, 2018

There Might Be Dancing . . .

I love to get books - and gift cards for them! - as gifts. When books I request from the library are ready to pick up, I want to rush over, scoop them up and bring them home. And I probably get waaaaay too excited when a favorite author has a new book coming out. (There might even be some dancing involved. And not by the tortoises.) 

But I thought of those things as a reader, not so much as a writer. Until now.


WHEN YOU THINK OF YOUR AUDIENCE,
DON'T THINK ABOUT WHO'LL BUY YOUR BOOK.
THINK OF WHO WILL READ IT
AS IF IT'S THE GREATEST GIFT.

It shifts the focus. It's no longer about what we as writers can get from our readers but becomes more about what we can give to our readers. And what can we give them? So. Many. Things. In the pages of our stories, we offer adventure, romance, new friends, mysteries to solve, trips to the past and to the future and to places incredibly different from our own. 

And in my case, I (hopefully!) give my readers goose-bumps and heebie-jeebies. (Okay, the real gift is that no one has to see me dance. Other than the tortoises, and they just hide in their shells until it's over anyway.) 

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So, what do you give your readers? Do you get excited about books? Are you a good dancer? 

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I'm taking a short blogging break. I'll still check in, but no new posts until Wednesday, February 7, when I will once again be co-hosting IWSG. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Popcorn, Please!

Did you know The Exorcist was the first horror film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar?

Did you know Psycho is the first American film to show a toilet? It's also the first time we hear a toilet flush.

For more fun trivia, check out 40 Fascinating Facts About Your Favorite Horror Movies (MentalFloss.com, 10/23/17.) I love this kind of stuff! Here are a few more:

Robert Englund was not the first choice to play Freddy Krueger, and Sissy Spacek was not the first choice to play Carrie. Can you imagine anyone else in those roles?

Gene Hackman was supposed to star in and direct Silence of the Lambs. No Anthony Hopkins?! And speaking of Silence of the Lambs, remember Buffalo Bill's creepy dance? That wasn't in the script, but it was in the book, and actor Ted Levine insisted it be included to help explain the character.

Jaws is one of my all-time favorite movies for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that not seeing Jaws right away escalates the tension and the creepiness. But the real reason the shark doesn't fully appear until one hour and twenty-one minutes into the movie? Because apparently, the mechanical shark rarely worked during filming.

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Do you enjoy watching horror/scary movies? Have any favorites? Have any interesting movie trivia to share?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Round and Round We Go

You all know by now how much I enjoy writing short fiction to prompts or themes. Well, over the holidays, literary agent Janet Reid held a flash fiction contest. But this was no ordinary flash fiction contest. Usually, we have about 48 hours to write a 100 word story that must include all five prompt words.

This time? Rounds. Four of them.

Round One: Prompt Word = bird, Number of Words = 30
Round Two: Prompt Word = ring, Number of Words = 25
Round Three: Prompt Word = colly, Number of Words = 25
Round Four: Prompt Word = sent, Number of Words = 20

Most of the usual rules applied along with a big twist: You could write individual stories each time OR build on a previous "starter" - yours or someone else's (with attribution, of course.)

It. Was. A. Blast.

I chose to build on my story. It was a risk because I didn't know what the next round's prompt word would be until it opened. I kept my story creepy (big surprise!) and my fingers crossed that I could make the prompt words work. My entry is below, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.


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Fog shrouds the house.

A bird flits by a window, the old glass broken from within.

The fog breathes, escapes.

The bird does not.

Inside, the occupants are still hungry.

Long ago, they gathered at the dinner bell's ring.

But the meal was not for them.

The only thing to grow up was their rage.

Now, they're the monsters. Cursed, caged.

Desperate, their tongues, long and twisted, bruised colly and cobalt, lick the walls, tasting memories of blood and bone.

When they turn on each other, it's swift, unsentimental.

Only one remains.

She crunches her brothers' bones, satiated.

For now.

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Would you build on your own story? Someone else's? Or would you write a new one - with that tiny word count! - each round? Do you enjoy writing to prompts or themes or super small word counts? Or do you find them too restrictive?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

IWSG: Focus, Finish


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Looking ahead to 2018 was like walking around my house without my glasses on - everything was blurry, vague, and I kept bumping into walls, tripping over tortoises.

I spent the last chunk of 2017 cleaning up and cleaning out, and finally saw a better, clearer view of the new year.

It's about fewer goals, more follow-through. It's about focusing, about finishing. I named two large projects that will probably take the whole year. In the meantime, a handful of small ones will help me feel like I'm accomplishing something. A hobby or two (art!) and some fun experiences (classes! day trips!) will round out where most of my effort and energy will go.

With this plan, I feel like I just slipped on a new pair of glasses, and now I can finally see where I'm going.

* And speaking of positive starts to the new year, my 25 word story "Pillow Talk" made the Best of 2017 issue over at Nailpolish Stories! *

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How is 2018 looking to you? If you're good at following through on projects, what's your secret? If you struggle like I do, what do you think holds you back? Too many projects, interests? Time management issues?