Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January Recap

Apparently it’s February in less than an hour (wait, what?), meaning January 2012 has come and gone with mindbending speed and it’s time to check in on my goals for the month. 

I actually exceeded my Write1Sub1 monthly goals with one drafted and two polished stories, two submissions, and one re-submission, making me a January Juggernaut:
Woohoo! I'm still unpublished, but it feels great to be experimenting and producing so much. 

I was also supposed to complete a full, detailed outline for my rewrite-the-mess-from-scratch WIP. Instead I made it about a quarter of the way through the outline and then got distracted/agitated and started writing instead. So now I have 6,000 words (yay!)… and the sneaking suspicion that I’ll have to get rid of most of them when I more clearly develop the direction of the rest of the novel (Arrg). I’m excited to be writing, but I really need to figure out where I can trade in my Pantser pants for some Plotter skills so I don’t get stuck in an endless rewrite loop.  

To keep pace on my 75-book Off the Shelf Challenge, I have to read 6-7 books per month. It's coming down to the wire, but I'm about to finish my sixth. I also sold some old audiobooks to a local store at a great rate, though my shelves are still embarrassingly overstuffed. But don't worry; I have a plan:

Source: Cereal with a Fork
How was your January?  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rejection is for the Bird

I’ve been submitting short stories for a few months now (thanks, W1S1), which means I’ve been receiving rejections for a few months now. (If there are writers out there with 100% acceptance rates on their early attempts, please don’t say so in the comments. I wouldn’t want to have to dig out my torch and pitchfork or interrogate you about why you never saved that tortoise in the desert.) (Just kidding.) (Kind of.)

I’ve found a number of positive ways to deal with the rejections, however. I remind myself that I’m still very new at this game and I’m up against a lot of excellent competition. I try to have at least two stories out in submission land at any given time (emphasis on try), so that when one gets rejected I can still pin my hopes on the others. And I embrace the rejections as motivation, keeping the slips* as reminders that I’m putting myself out there, that each “Not for us” is a step towards acceptance. 

And I took it a step further, drawing on something from the memoir section of Stephen King’s On Writing

“When I got the rejection slip from AHMM, I pounded a nail into the wall above the Webcor, wrote “Happy Stamps” on the rejection slip, and poked it into the nail… I felt pretty good, actually. When you’re still too young to shave, optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.
By the time I was fourteen (and shaving twice a week whether I needed to or not) the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing…”

I loved the idea of a rejection spike and decided to get a version of my own. My first thought was something epic like a narwhal sculpture with a long horn, but I eventually went with something smaller and cheaper that would still look nice in my office (and even fit with the blog's tree theme): 

At least part of me looks forward to the day when the hook is completely filled and I have to upgrade. Hopefully by that point there will be a number of acceptances in the mix, but if not I plan to get a larger “spike” and keep on writing. 

Does anyone else have a spike? How do you deal with rejections?

*Okay, technically I haven’t received rejection slips. I’ve gotten rejection emails and then printed them out. Same difference.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Maybe this time we'll get it right

I’ve been suspicious of governmental control and against censorship since I was a kid; blame thank all of the dystopian books I read growing up and the adults who supported my right to do so. But there have been times that I’ve seen Orwellian changes coming to this country (The Patriot Act, the TSA body scanners, the recent security law that allows American terrorism suspects to be detained without trial) and haven’t done much about them. Not because I thought they weren’t important issues, but because I honestly thought they wouldn’t come to pass, or that they would be reversed when different officials were elected or when the truth about them spread widely enough.

To take a recent non-legislative example, I was talking to my husband about the worst of the police violence and pepper-spraying at Occupy rallies, and I asked if he’d read anything about how those officers were being punished… because surely their actions wouldn’t just get swept under the rug, right? Not when the video evidence was so public, right? 

But then I thought about all the other information that has come to light and not stopped illogical laws or abuses of power. (Like, say, the recent reports of TSA employees getting cancer from the radiation and officials refusing to do further tests.) It made me realize that I wasn’t as wary and skeptical as I thought. Sure, I’ve never had a hard time believing that people in authority abused their power, that horrible things went on behind closed doors, that government and business were in bed together, that important information would be concealed if it messed with the status quo, that every story was getting spun by someone somewhere. BUT at the same time, I was enough of a na├»ve optimist to believe that once the lies were exposed, once the truth was out there, then things would have to change. The government or group in question would have to bow to the will of the informed public. And sometimes that does happen, certainly; exposure of scandals has forced people out of power and into prison. But sometimes the truth is exposed and nothing significant changes.  

It's easy to misestimate public opinion, too. Of course I have friends, family, and coworkers who hold different political views than I do, and I’m introduced/subjected to a wide range of opinions whenever I turn on the TV or browse the web. But more often I read, watch, and talk to people with similar views – I think we all do. Plus I’m currently in Eugene, which is the most liberal and free speech-y place that I’ve lived. So, at least subconsciously, I start to assume that the majority of Americans watch what I watch, read what I read, support what I support, and oppose what I oppose. I start to assume that the tide of America is turning a certain way, and that the government will be forced to follow. 

Most pertinent for today, I start to assume that SOPA and PIPA will never pass. Piracy needs to be reduced, but this act is CLEARLY NOT the way to do it. So many articles have explained why it isn't the right choice, how it will destroy freedom, creativity, and productivity without significantly solving problems. So many influential and everyday people have stood up against it. There's no way it will pass after so much intelligent and vocal outrage...right? Right?

I’m writing this post because I’m terrified that I’m wrong. I’m worried that freedom and rational thinking will somehow lose again and SOPA and PIPA will pass, beginning a domino effect of restricted freedoms.

But I’m also writing this post because I still have hope that I’m right. Today, a long list of influential websites (Wikipedia, Reddit, Google, Twitter…) is protesting with blackouts or informational messages. We all know the power of the internet to spread information and make things happen – it’s part of what makes the internet freedoms in question here worth saving, after all – so I still have enough shreds of optimism left to believe that all these voices will be heard and those in power will do the right thing.

So please join me in using the links below to learn about SOPA and PIPA, sign petitions against them, and contact your local representatives before the Senate begins voting on January 24th.

Learn more through Wikipedia and then use their page to look up your local representatives
Watch the video below and check out Nova Rena Suma's blog blackout where I found it and sign that petition too.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Funktastic New Year

Hello blog and patient readers, 

I’ve been neglecting you a bit (and Twitter, for that matter, but I made no promises to that little bird when I reluctantly signed up) and I’m not entirely sure why. Something about having to reboot after holiday travels, or struggling to figure out what to do about my writing, or struggling to figure out what to do about everything else.

The truth is, I was in danger of starting 2012 in an entirely unproductive funk.* And the funk was certainly real enough, and I have a feeling it’s lurking overhead waiting to strike again, but I'm still managing to write through it. It hasn't been amazing progress, but it's been progress all the same. In case you find yourself in a similar position, and as a handy reminder for myself, I thought I'd share what seems to be working for me:

Multiple projects. Because some days I just cannot force myself to work on my WIP; the mere thought makes me twitchy, or I’m so stuck on a plot point that I’ll spend the entire writing time staring around the room. I need to have a second project in my pocket. Since juggling two novels tends to frazzle my brain (heck, at this point figuring out one novel is frazzling my brain), my other project is usually a short story. If I was only working on short stories, I’d feel the urge to work on something longer. Being able to bounce back and forth is the only reason I’ve been able to write consistently.  

Writing Not-Quite-Crap. I know the most common advice for this kind of funk is “Just keep writing no matter what, even if you think it’s crap.” I embrace that philosophy for first drafts, but it’s harder to do in a rewrite draft, because I feel like I should have gotten the really poor stuff out of my system already. My extra-cranky inner editor agrees, of course, so if I only wrote crap it would just send me deeper into an I Suck Funk. So I’ve compromised, trying to write well and editing as I go, but not grinding to a halt just because I can’t find the perfect phrase. 

Familiar Inspiration. For me, it’s returning to Laini Taylor’s mini-blog Not for Robots, which you should read right now if you haven’t. Her descriptions of the exhilarating jungle of a first draft or the SNICK of a plot puzzle piece fitting perfectly always make me excited about figuring out the intricacies of my plot rather than terrified and exhausted by its messiness. And if I need more, I have King’s On Writing and a shelf of other old friends.

Organized Challenges. I’m pathetically predictable, really: even in a funk, I will stubbornly rise to whatever challenge I’ve announced publicly for myself. Just before the new year I posted some goals under my new Writing tab, and I also have a calendar in my office where I mark whether I've written every day. Here's the short version of my overall goals (since more publicizing = more motivation for me):

- I’m doing Write 1 Sub 1 again. I don’t think the weekly challenge is feasible for the way I write, so officially I’m sticking with the monthly challenge, but I’d actually like to submit at least two stories per month (though I’m letting myself use a Twitter-length or rewritten story for the second one). So far I have one story submitted and another in the pieces-with-potential stage, so things are looking up. 

- I also posted a goal schedule for my novel WIP under the Writing tab. Right now the story is mostly in the outlining stage since I’m starting another complete rewrite, and honestly it’s not going very well. I'm going to follow my advice and hope that reading a bit of plotting instruction and inspiration will get me on the right track today.

Any challenges, funks, or advice you'd like to share?

*Describing my state as a funk actually helps me feel better, because it doesn't make me think of Webster's "cowering fear" or "state of depression," or even a style of music. It reminds me of my first frisbee team:

It's a good reminder that language is a quirky, lovely thing, and that there's always an upside.