22 April 2016

Meet the ferals

I've had this saved as a draft post for two years. I'm really just publishing it for posterity, as they say. 

In the summer of 2013, I rented a trap from a local animal shelter to catch a mama cat and her only kitten. They were living under the foundation of a building in my apartment complex and I was worried our new landlord would seal them inside when they fixed the hole that allowed access to the space. 

This is Mama Mia. Unfortunately, it was not safe to release her back into the area where I found her after her spay at the feral cat coalition. I had two cats already, and though she had a room where she could be isolated from them, the stress of their smell, being indoors, and the surgical procedure contributed to her death mere days after this picture was taken. The vet estimated she was only about ten months old when she birthed her kitten. 

And this is Tigger, who is now almost three years old. Originally, I had planned to foster him for adoption but when his mother died, I couldn't help but keep him. He is a mama's boy through and through. He still spooks at sudden sounds. He loves every cat he meets but is terrified of new humans. He's so bow legged that he looks like a munchkin cat. I adore him so much I made him a Twitter account like a big dork. 

17 April 2016

How I Tricked Myself Into Finishing a Thing or Twelve

I’ve had some serious down time over the last month so I decided to wage war on my writer complacency. As I’ve connected with aspiring writers, I’ve discovered many of us have a funny flaw in common; we struggle with making ourselves write a little every day and we have huge piles of unfinished longer projects. Because REASONS. I don’t know about you guys, but REASONS are getting in my way. I made a list to tackle the problem (and because I like making lists).

  • Writing about nothing for 15 minutes every day is hard
  • Writing without a clear goal for what I’m writing is hard
  • I compulsively edit as I go, which slows everything down
  • I get bogged down on my long projects, lose track of the goal, and burn out
  • I don’t always feel like I have the time

Skipping to the end first, the time problem is basically an excuse, barring unusual circumstances of a “Life, why you gotta be such a dick” variety. Even when working 80 hour weeks, I can still squeeze in 15 minutes of writing a few days a week. Besides; it’s at the end for a reason; it’s my last ditch effort to justify slacking off on my own dream. This is stupid. So I crossed that one off.

Next up is that daily writing exercise; sit down every day and just ramble; don’t worry about it making sense. It’s the universal pieces of advice given to us by the writers we admire (literally, ALL of them). It’s one of the first things most creative writing classes will make you do. And lots of us hate it. Because REASONS.

But, who says I have to write about nothing? I have 20 pages of science fiction related prompts on my computer; just pick one and go. Or I could follow a twitter account that regularly posts links to images and music for inspiration (look at #writingprompt and you’ll find tons of them). Sure the first few minutes will probably be terribad word vomit but that’s what editing is for, right?

And if I’m going to be editing later anyway, who says there can’t be a clear goal? I’ve always avoided writing flash fiction (100-2000 words) because I imagined myself a would-be novelist. So I was basically a would-be writing snob? This is stupid.

There are lots of publications that feature flash fiction, and many of them pay. If I do a writing exercise every day, and edit two or three of those a week into something coherent, I’ve got two or three finished pieces of flash fiction ready to submit for publication. Let me say that again. Finished stories ready to submit. Isn’t that the whole idea?

Compulsive editing is a trickier problem and I had to meet the obsessive part of my brain halfway on this one. I’ll allow myself smaller edits (backspace, delete, and typos) but when I realize I’m starting to highlight entire phrases or sentences then I need to move on. I can list some bullet points if I can’t think of how to phrase planned events in prose. Or I can skip to the next part with a quick note (“lol this sucks” is in pretty much every daily write I do). Or I can just keep rambling.

OMG that last sentence was terrible and I need to delete it. And then he hit his head on a tree root.”

That was in a daily write I did last week that went from 1500 words of verbal diarrhea to a 101 word flash piece that I’ve just submitted for publication. I have no idea if it will be accepted but it’s done. It’s a completed piece of fiction and it’s out awaiting acceptance or refusal.  This week I’ve submitted 10 different pieces for publication, 8 of them to paid publications. I feel pretty bad ass, right now.

All of these tiny pieces helped with longer projects, too. My motivation is high because suddenly I’m completing stories regularly. I stop working on the novel when I’m stuck and shift focus to one of the shorter projects. It’s giving me the distance to not get bogged down and burnt out. I’m getting better at not editing as I write. All combined that seems like it would slow progress but instead it’s had the opposite effect. I’ve written 30,000 words in two weeks and only about a third of that is in my organizational documents (character charts, scene lists). The rest is actual story.

So I played a prank on my silly brain and it worked. Neat trick, that. I won’t lie though; listening to my writing playlists on my new speaker certainly isn’t hurting the inspiration any.

11 April 2016

Two wins, one loss

The only thing I ever wanted to be as a kid was a writer. But somehow during my 40 years on this rock, I let people tell me my writing was no good, it would never get published, I needed to worry about more practical things and put my writing aside as a childhood fantasy.

And like an idiot, I believed them. So while I never stopped writing, I never finished writing either. What I mean to say is that I started tons of projects but never completed them. I was always scribbling in a notebook, but never studying the craft to learn how to turn that folder of uncompleted stories into even one finished one. And let me tell you that folder is huge after all this time.

So apparently my version of the midlife crisis is to say, "screw that" and finally follow my dream. I still have to worry about practical things but I refuse to let my writing be someone else's childhood dream. It's my dream. My super, grown up dream.

This weekend I finished character charts for my current work in progress, and got my first rejection letter. Both of these things are wins because both are huge milestones for me. Character development is where I always fell apart in the past and the rejection means that I finally put my work out there. I win.

Now if only I could get these two to stop stealing my writing spot... You know what? That's a win, too. Kittehs!!

07 April 2016

Writer problems

Over the last month, I've quit my day job abruptly, shelved a long project that went left instead of right, and made a shocking amount of progress on what I'm currently calling my ZomRomCom, a romantic comedy set in the zombie apocalypse. Maybe it's because the idea is so absurd or maybe it's just that most of the characters are based on actual people I know, but this project is moving at top speed.

This brings me to my problem... How do I sort of the mess that is my social media situation? I have several blogs that I rarely post on (that's an easy enough fix), a twitter account I use primarily for stalking celebrities who crack me up, and a facebook profile locked down on uber private for reasons. Do I build all new accounts? I'm not really sure.

So if anyone out there has suggestions I'll take them. In the meantime I guess I'll have to take baby steps, just as I do when building a story.