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A short story of my own

May 27th, 2008

A couple weeks ago I discovered that Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress 23 was open for submissions via e-mail . . . for four more days. I’ve been thinking lately that one of my big regrets from the past few years is that with all of the time and energy I’ve put into Fantasist Enterprises, I have done very little writing of my own. Besides that small burst of creativity roughly this time last year, and a short story I wrote in December, I’ve written nothing more than letters, e-mails, marketing materials, and the occasional blog.

I slid into the publishing business thanks to my love of reading and writing. Story is my passion, and I decided that I wanted to spend my time working with it. I knew I had a lot to learn about writing, and was planning on going to Seton Hill’s writing popular fiction program so I decide to focus on learning about publishing by doing it, and allowing my own writing to simmer on the back burner while I worked. I reasoned that after graduating from Seton Hill, I’d been more accomplished at writing, and could then turn my attention more towards getting published.

Even though I completed a draft of a novel in order to graduate, and I wrote a handful of short stories during school, after graduation, writing just faded away. The bug bit every once in awhile, but never so hard that I really accomplished anything. Seeing that call for submissions really made something click. It’s time that I actually make the time to do some writing of my own.

So I gave myself a challenge. I would write a story to submit to the book, which meant coming up with an idea, writing it, getting someone to proof it, make any final edits, and e-mail it . . . in four days, knowing that I would be working on three of those days.

I placed a link to the webpage about the call for submissions in my Firefox toolbar as a subtle reminder, told a few folks that I would not be as responsive as usual over the next few days, and then did my thing. On the days I worked at my part time job, I ran through scenes in my head and then I would jot down notes and rough blocks of prose during my breaks. I only had Thursday all to myself since there was a lot of work to be done for VEINS on Tuesday. So that meant a few very late nights and early mornings.

I managed to do it. I wrote 37 pages, had Meesh proofread it, did some fine-tuning of my own, and sent it out. I did not have high hopes, and I am sure the story is still rough, but the point is, I gave myself a challenge and I pulled it off.

And yes I got a rejection less than 24 hours later, but I saw that I can write and actually finish stories, and rather quickly. If I could survive on three to four hours of sleep a night indefinitely, I’d be able to churn out a novel every month at that rate.

So my next writing challenge is to finish a novella that I started months ago, and actually send it out to Writers of the Future. From there, I’ll just have to watch out for more interesting anthologies to try and write for.


Don’t lose the discipline to daydream!

May 9th, 2007

So, I’ve been very busy for the past couple of years, working on building my press, freelance editing, and working the occasional hours at a part time job. It’s a period of time in my life that seems to have dragged on with near-constant work and very little rest.

As such, my own writing has suffered. I just haven’t written to any sizable amount in quite a while. After editing nine or ten hours straight, I usually don’t want to sit at the computer and put down words of my own. That drive gets hamstrung.

I thought it was simple exhaustion. Then I realized there was a deeper, less obvious problem: I wasn’t daydreaming.

Years ago, during those times when I did not have to have my brain working on something 100%, my mind would be running all over the place, dreaming up locales, characters, conversations, visual snippets, bits of action scenes . . . all the tiny building blocks of story. If I was driving, I was also talking to myself. If I was doing manual labor, I was blocking out a fight scene.

But some time ago, I began filling those moments with worries of business or personal matters. How was I going to complete the editing on such and such a project in time? Were things with the current flame really going to work out?

Rarely do these worrying sessions produce anything positive. In Tai Chi, we learn to be 100% involved and 100% aware. It’s a simplified way of saying that you should be able to do what you need to do in the here and now while still being aware of what’s going on around you and knowing when you need to react to something. That doesn’t mean you need to ignore your problems . . . it just means you give them their fair due and then move on.

I know I sound a little contradictory right now. I’m telling you to be 100% involved and 100% aware . . . and yet I’m telling you to daydream. I’m saying it’s imperative for writers to daydream . . . just don’t do it at the wrong time. Don’t get so wrapped up in your narrative that you crash your car. Don’t ruin a relationship because you never listen to the other person because you’re hearing other voices in your head.

But when the time is right, allow your mind to wander. Have fun with it. Just imagine. Then you’ll have so much more fuel with which to fire up the creative engines.

I know that since I’ve started retraining myself to daydream, I’ve been writing more. Not much, but more. The whole time and energy thing still gets in the way . . . but the characters get so insistent again, that every so often, I just can’t hold them back anymore. And I love having that feeling. I love knowing that I have to get a scene down or I’ll go crazy.