What's Up

In which I elaborate on the myriad and sundry reasons for my absence.

For one thing, I’ve been very busy writing! Finally, today, only a few hours ago, I hit send on my very first submission ever. It’s only a short story, the very one I discussed a month ago, but it took a lot to get it finished, revised, critiqued, revised again, polished, formatted … and finally sent. The details of this might make a very long blog post, especially the formatting which nearly put me over the edge, but I’ll save it for another day.

Image courtesy of Gerla Brakkee @stock.xchngWith all those steps to go through for just a short story of exactly 2497 words, I’m beginning to grasp why it’s taking me so long to get through a whole novel!

I’m also beginning to see that all that attention to detail and refusal to settle for anything less than my best is worth it. I’m rather proud of that little story, and now that it is floating in the ether of the world-wide web, I’m no longer worried about it. I’ve done the best I can with it, and the rest is now out of my control. It would be nice to be accepted for the anthology though!

As for what it’s about, I think I mentioned a cat and a mysterious Dr. M, as well as a serious need for inspiration. It’s part of an anthology themed An Adventure in Creating, after all. And there are feathers.

There’s been some travel on my schedule as well. Fortunately, I manage to travel and write (at least a little bit) at the same time, so there’s been some progress on a new draft, though most of my time was spent on, you guessed it, my short  story.

I’ve got a ton of blog posts I’m excited to write and post, so I hope everyone bears with me until I settle back into some kind of normal routine.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with this:

Deception Pass, Whidbey Island
Deception Pass, Whidbey Island

We visited Whidbey Island, WA on Tuesday and dined in Coupeville the day before the landslide. It’s reassuring to know that no one was injured in this massive landslide, though the property damage is tragic.

What have you been up to? Have you ever narrowly avoided disaster?

Feathers and rock image courtesy of Gerla Brakkee @stock.xchng, Deception Pass my own shot

IWSG: Embracing the Turtle

InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means that it’s time for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group to circle the wagons and huddle around the campfire. Got self-doubt? Got struggles? Click this here linky and join the indefatigable Alex J. Cavanaugh and some of the nicest writers on the web for some insight and commiseration.

For a while now I’ve been having some anxiety about how long my revision is taking, but this month I got a new perspective on this.

As a biologist I’ve always enjoyed classifying the world around me into types and species, so it seemed only natural that I began to notice how writers seemed to fall into different categories. Since trying to emulate another writer is futile, and will in fact lead to frustration, part of my journey seems to be figuring out what kind of writer I am.

When I started my first novel and was exploring the craziness called NaNoWriMo, I used the handle Larkk. (The extra Harris's Hawk image courtesy of Eric Isselée @ Big Stock‘k’ was needed because apparently ‘Lark’ was already taken— imagine that!) Writing in freewheeling first draft mode felt like I had been given wings. I was a hawk, soaring high above the imaginary world, swooping in to grab inspiration in my talons and rising back into the sky to devour it high upon a cliff away from worldly troubles like inciting incidents and dénouement.

But, like every imaginary high, I eventually landed and discovered what a mess I had made in my exuberance.

Now it is time for revision, and revision is slow. It involves scene cards, character biographies, consistency sheets, and chopping fifty word sentences into bite-sized morsels. Sometimes all I get through is a few pages before my eyes fall shut from exhaustion.

Every day, I go back to it and do a little more. The pile of pages I have ahead of me becomes smaller and the pile of pages done becomes higher. I am making progress, but in the process I fear I’ve become a turtle.

Image courtesy of Denis Barbulat @ Big StockI admit it’s hard to watch other writers sprinting past me, finishing revisions, sending out queries, self-publishing their stories. But, rather than turn bitter and resentful, something I promised myself I’d never do, I’ve discovered another handy feature of the turtle anatomy: The ability to pull my head inside my shell.

Sometimes I need to be alone with my words. In silence, I can hear my subconscious more clearly and rediscover the spark that led me to my keyboard. While it’s fun to talk about my writing, and fun to see what others are working on, there are times when the only thing that matters to the story is what I think. To discover what that is, I curl up into my tiny turtle world and listen to my heart.

As I begin to accept my status as turtle amongst the kingdom of writers, I’ve discovered other benefits of turtle-dom. Image courtesy of 'rfirman' @ stock.xchng@ stoConsider, if you will, the hard turtle shell. It can protect me from jabs of critics, and keep me safe from comments that might stop me from writing. They always say you need a thick skin to be a writer. If I accept my turtle status, I will do that one better. I will have armor made of bone.

So, for now, I will embrace my turtle nature and accept that I too will reach my goals at my own pace, and in my own way.

How about you insecure writers? What species of writer are you? Are you a wolf, who hunts in a pack and howls at the moon? Or a lion, who roams with a pride? Or a bat, who writes at night, and uses echolocation to find its way?

And, are there any useful features of the turtle anatomy that I’ve left out?

Harris’s Hawk image courtesy of Eric Isseleé, turtle skeleton image courtesy of Denis Barbulat, both @ Big Stock. Turtle shell courtesy of ‘rfirman’ @ stock.xchng

Pardon the Tumbleweeds

Image courtesy Chris Dodutch @ BigStock.comDon’t mind me, I’ll just clear away these tumbleweeds that are blowing over the scenic route. I’m still writing, but it seems I took on too much again and left the blog to gather dust for a while.

What is it this time, you ask?

I’m writing a short story! Well, actually it’s done now and awaiting revision.

Usually not a big deal, as sometimes short stories ambush me and I bash them out in one big two thousand word rush to get them out of my head and onto the page. But in this case I wanted to try to get it right.

Holly Lisle, along with the forum moderators at the revision course I’m currently plodding through is putting together an anthology of stories by her students. Not only that, but there are prizes! Anyone who has taken a Holly Lisle course, from the Plot Clinic (short courses) to the How To Revise Your Novel course is eligible, so if you’re in that category I’m looking at you! The stories must be less than 2500 words long and the anthology even has a theme: Adventures in Creativity.

The thing is, I don’t really know how to write a short story. I write really, really long ones …

Image courtesy of ilker @ Stock.xchngSo I took the same approach I always do and threw up my hands and just started writing. I wrote three hundred words setting the scene for my idea, which was: What if a mysterious character who goes by the name of Dr. M were able to dispense inspiration and ideas, and what if he made house calls? I knew that I was saving what ‘M’ stands for until the very end of the story. I’ll give you a clue though: It’s very hard to pronounce.

I set up the main character and what she is facing, but did it in the form of a narrative. Then I stopped writing, and waited, turning the idea over in my head for a day, then sat down to write again. The idea grew.

A cat wandered onto the set. The name of the cat became an important turning point in the story.

I wrote four hundred more words and put the story away.

Dr. M changed from a man to a woman. She carried a suitcase full of feathers and a metal box marked Tea.Image courtesy of gyvulius @ stock.xchn

Four hundred words later, my main character was a costume designer at a fancy garden party.

Her husband arrived.

I did this for a few days in a row and by the time I was at fifteen hundred words, my ending came into focus. Four hundred more words and I summarized the rest of the story in eight or so sentences. I wanted to pace myself but from there a quick seven hundred fifty word session and I was done!

The coolest thing had to be looking down at my Scrivener word count and seeing that my story had skidded to a halt at 2460 words, forty words below the upper limit of 2500 words! Since the entries are paid in proportion to word count, and being of the wordy persuasion, I had decided to push that envelope as far as I could.

The beginning doesn’t quite match the end anymore, but that’s what revision is for and fortunately, I know a bit about how to do that. I have until March 30 to get that in. Wish me luck!

How do you approach writing a short story? Do your beginnings match your endings?

And, did I give too much of my story away?

Images courtesy Chris DoDutch @ BigStock.com, ilker  and ‘gyvulius’ @ Stock.xchng