NANoWriMO

NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month. Also known as the Worst Month In The Entire Year To Challenge One’s Self To Write 50k words.

  1. November only has 30 days. Why not just make it February then for a “real” challenge.
  2. November is the beginning of the busiest holiday season of the year. Thanksgiving is right there towards the end of the month.
  3. Even if, like myself, you don’t celebrate the holidays, other people do. And their actions affect you. I say this looking at all the time off requests I’ve approved around Thanksgiving because I’m not a heartless scrooge.

For me, November would be a death knell for getting any sort of long sustained writing work done. Not only will I be more than likely working tons of overtime during the month, specifically around the holidays but it’s not unusual for me to pull 50 hour work weeks just in general, but my wonderful workplace decided to do their End of Year even in the first week of November.

I know. Right during the midterm elections. Register and vote people.

So, on Monday I’ll be working my shift then flying to Las Vegas, and probably have some time of work mingling event. Tuesday and Wednesday will be meetings and conferences and more meetings and will probably end up being 16 hours of work/mingling before crashing in a hotel room–and that’s assuming I don’t work late into the night to get a handle on the tickets we didn’t have time to process because of all the totally not mandatory Work Events. Thursday, the work still needs to get done but on top of that I’m also flying!

A whole week! Gone!

I’ve always been of the opinion that putting this challenge in November is setting one’s self up for failure. Writing is already hashtag hard, so to put such a challenge in a month with only thirty days, during one of the busiest holiday seasons of the year? Why!

So I will be doing the challenge this year–but not in November.

October, after September, is already the best month. Even in places without seasons it just is because Halloween is fun! The days are just starting to turn but are not so depressingly dark in the mornings and evenings. It has….thirty one days!

I’m calling it National Auxiliary Novel Writing Month: October or NAnoWriMO.

I’m also going to do a fanfic this year because inspiration, what’s that!

But yeah. That’s the plan. I’m ready!

Reader’s Corner: King & Riordan

When I was a kid, I used to read several books at a time. I blame this on my home school education,  tv was a limited amusement, and that we used to belong to the Pizza Hut reading program: read x number of books and you get a free single-serving pizza.

I would read books that were beneath my reading level so I could chow through them in a single day, satisfactorily log it, and then read another one. Normally, I was reading other books that were not considered pizza fodder, though I took great satisfaction in logging those too.

Then I grew up. Got a major case of The Depression, and stopped reading!

I know, what a bummer.

I’ve actually been reading again for a while but not like I used to. Not like I did as a kid.

I’ve been starting small, again reading books below my age. For example, my coworker gave me the Percy Jackson books for Christmas. You’ll have these read over the weekend, right? She asked me.

Uhhhhhhh, I said, very intelligently.

To be honest, I was feeling the pressure. My mom had also given me two books that she wanted me to read, one of which was sitting on my shelf for over a month, the other languishing in my kindle for even longer. I also had my own list of to-reads which I had yet to get to–Amazon asks me how many stars I want to rate a book I’ve purchased but yet to read, and the guilt sets in.

I did not have the Percy books read over the weekend, but I did go through them at a good pace despite working full time, writing, being dog tired, and reading other projects.

Yes, I am back to reading multiple books at a time!

The primary book that I read while reading Percy Jackson was Joyland by Steven King. I chose to read Joyland to expand my genre horizons beyond science fiction and fantasy.

I consumed Joyland in a day and a half. Stephen King is a pretty good writer, obviously. His On Writing was one of the first books I read about the craft, though my thoughts are mixed on it now as an adult. I really enjoyed Firestarter, but couldn’t get into some of his more “heavier” stuff. Basically, I don’t read a lot of Stephen King for several reasons, and I started IT though stopped when I discovered what happens at the end of the novel.

I’ve never read any of Rick Riordan’s work before and, even though they are different genres written for different audiences, I couldn’t help but compare the two to each other craftwise.

One of the things I immediately noticed about Joyland was that it was not structured into chapters. The other thing I noticed is that, even though I could remember what happened as I was reading, the drama was written so smoothly it was sliding melted butter over bread. It’s the juxtaposition of feeling where you remember what happened–but you also don’t. The same sort of feel when you try to remember exactly what filled your hours on a weekend, but you can’t. The day was there, and it wasn’t. There’s just the feeling you had–that it was great or good or satisfying or bad.

I’ve always had this feeling when I’m immersed in a well written book. It reminds me of the feeling I get when I’m trying to write: how am I going to fill these pages when hardly anything is happening, when the plot is a slow boil? And here is Stephen King doing just that, nearly effortlessly.

I’m not sure if I’m explaining it right. Maybe if I finally bring in my point about Percy Jackson:

With Percy Jackson, I have the opposite feeling. I remember what fills the page because it feels very much like a video game. Each obstacle is like a punctuation mark. Again, this is probably because this is aimed at a (much) younger audience than myself.

But it also got me thinking about different writing styles, and the audience. Of course, you’re going to be changing your form and style as necessary, but I couldn’t help but feeling that my most mature writing is more like Riordan’s than King’s.

And there really is nothing wrong with that! But, especially since I am not writing for a younger generation, I want my writing to read more like King’s. Not in his voice, just the way people read the words without noticing the plot structure or other writing devices because they are so well hidden in the actual story.

It’s something that I’ll be aiming for in the coming months.

Writing Update

With just barely a week to go before Strange Horizons’ deadline, I finally finished the first (haha) draft of the story I want to submit to them.

It’s been edited once since then, but it still needs a title, I’m still not happy with the name of one of the protagonists, and it needs further revision.

But it’s finished, and that means that even if I don’t get it to where it wants or needs to be, I can submit it to Strange Horizons and that’s really the only thing that matters.

Now, I still need to write the horror story, and there’s another anthology I’d like to submit to called UFO (Unidentified Funny Objects — deadline also April 30).

I’ve not written a lot of humor (actually more like zero humor) so I think it might be an interesting exercise.

I feel like I’ve been writing a lot lately, which is nice.

Story of My First Sale

So when I was writing, “You, An Accidental Astronaut,” it was in a different format because I was writing it for another literary magazine.

When I heard about Mothership Zeta, I already knew that the format I was trying to push this story into wasn’t going to work. And that’s when I realized that I wanted to submit it to Mothership Zeta, and that when Mothership Zeta would reject it I would go ahead and try to submit it to the place I originally had in mind.

Then I promptly forgot about the deadline. I was fighting and struggling with the story, had fallen out of love with it, even, and I had only gone over it once or twice when I remembered the deadline after it was almost passed.

I never even had someone else look it over because I was too busy self-rejecting myself and the story. But I sent it out anyways and to my shock, I survived the first and second rounds of rejection until I received the email they wanted to accept it and have me sign a contract and everything.

It was funny, because the news came on the Worst Day of Work. I was already on the edge of a breakdown in the breakroom when I was on my lunch break. As people at work can testify, I never took my breaks, usually opting to eat at my desk as I worked on the emails that came in–but today if I did that I would have broken down in tears in front of everyone and We Can’t Have That. So I was checking my email, completely zoned out, and I was almost about to autoarchive the email on my phone. I had to re-read the email twice over, and by the time I had processed what it said, I was, as they say, over the moon.

The first thing I did when I went back to the office was announce the news and everybody was happy for me and I was happy for me and work still sucked but it didn’t suck as much because I had published my first story–a story I hadn’t even technically tried to get publish. A story that I had only sent out once and it had been accepted the first go around. A story that I had lost faith in.

That story was accepted.

In many ways I feel like I cheated somehow. I’ve only submitted about five stories for publication in my entire life. Two of those stories I submitted to Weird Tales when I was a teenager and got form rejections. Two of those stories I submitted only once and then self-pubbed them here.

And then this.

I feel like I didn’t earn my first sale, but I’m also trying not to think like that because I did earn it because I wrote it and I sent it out and everything. I just got lucky.

Anyway, that’s how I got my first sale.

While this post was percolating, I also read Sunil Patel’s Anatomy of a Sale Parts One and Two which I highly recommend reading. In the articles, Patel mentions several sites to make submit/rejection experience more engaging and interactive, which I am definitely excited to give a try (referring specifically to The Grinder and the Sink or Submit game).

About the Dog and the Bone

I recently came across this post quoting Karen Sandler

“Fiction is not the real world. In the real world, not everything means something. Much of what happens is just mundane, boring stuff that nobody cares about.

In fiction, the reader expects that every detail of a scene will connect to the story. If you spend more than a few words describing your main character, Ray Santiago, watching a brown and white spotted dog with one blue eye trot down the street with a bone in its mouth, that dog better bite Ray before the end. Or that bone the dog is carrying better be human.”

Karen Sandler is the author of nineteen novels for adults, as well as Tankborn, Awakening, and Rebellion, a YA science fiction trilogy. She is a founding team member of We Need Diverse Books.

My first thought was wondering how it would be like to be so prolific as to publish nineteen books. My second thought was emphatic disagreement with the above. My third thought was wondering if there is anything as condescending as reiterating that fiction is not the real world.

I’m not published so my disagreement is essentially worthless, but I cannot help but disagree and disagree strongly.

I suppose there are two parts to my disagreement that can be summed up as follows:

  • as a reader, I don’t expect that every detail of a scene connects to the story
  • why does the dog have to bite Ray and why is it a human bone

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Listening Booth: Welcome to Night Vale A Story About You

I think listening to Welcome to Night Vale’s “A Story About You” fundamentally changed the way I viewed the consumption and production of art–or perhaps it helped me to articulate something that I was beginning to learn but was yet incapable of fully expressing. I definitely attribute listening to this episode as my primary influence in writing so much of my short fiction in the second person but that is neither here nor there.

I love this episode because it is one of the most beautiful pieces of meta fiction that I’ve ever seen. Almost every single long running series I feel has its meta episode, but I think Night Vale’s is the one I like the best.

Hearing Cecil state that “this is a story about you” is inherently an act of validation. Many times I feel that people who are marginalized by oppressive mainstream narratives are told that the only appropriate response is simply “Write your own.” Such a statement is fundamentally wrong because it ignores how important it is to see yourself in a story, to see that you too can be part of overarching narratives that traditionally only belong to a few, and which serve to perpetuate and sustain oppressive systems of power. Such a statement presumes that it is possible to cloister one’s self behind a wall and become untouched by listening to the damaging stories surrounding you.

All this is false, of course. Even if it were possible to become completely untouched by the narratives that surround our very existence–why should someone isolate themselves simply so that other people can continue telling their damaging, harmful, and oppressive narratives? It would be better if people told stories that did not harm people at all.

Such a statement is also dismissive of the the fact that even when people do tell their stories, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be accepted or welcomed by editors, by publishers, or other establishments of authority. Such a statement does not address how establishments use their authority to keep people out. Such a statement does not take action against these establishments of authority. Such a statement does not provide platforms and space and tools for people to utilize to tell their own stories so that their words can reach people who do need to hear about themselves on the radio.

This is a story about you, said the man on the radio, and you were pleased, because you always wanted to hear about yourself on the radio. […] But there was a time, one day, one single day, in which it was only one story, a story about you.  And you were pleased, because you always wanted to hear about yourself on the radio. [x]

Everybody should be pleased to hear about themselves on the radio or on the television or in that book or in that song–not hurt.

Reading Corner: On Not Writing by Bill Hayes

In a truly ironic turn of events, the day after I wrote up my post about Stephen King’s On Writing I came across the article “On Not Writing” in my morning’s twitter feed.

This spoke to me in the same way that Stephen King’s work also spoke to me. I am afraid to “rest” because my rest periods frequently turn into years, and I don’t want to become that person again.

But it’s also important to remember that what worked for Stephen King or even Bill Hayes might not work for you. It’s even possible that what worked for you now won’t work for you in the future. As you grow, so does your writing, so does your method.

I think that after reading these two think pieces on writing, the one thing I’ve taken away from it is: i need to try and find what works best for me.