Monday, February 27, 2012

March Goals for #writemotivation and 11 Questions from the Writer's Campaign

Thursday I will review my goal progress for February and also talk about the future of the Dissecting the Short Story Series. Today, I'm going to lay out my goals for the month of March.

1) Read my first draft of "Adrift" and create something akin to a "beat sheet" for it. - I'm hoping that having a more tightly-define goal for working on this will help keep me directed on it.
2) Have a short story revising day where I get at least three stories into a form where I am ready to send them out for beta or submission.
3) Write 7,500 words of new fiction including at least one new short story.
4) Keep all my writing routines -- Seinfeld Chain, revised blogging schedule, etc.
5) On 3/31, have one non-time-sensitive blog post written and ready for future use on a day when I'm not able to post something "new."
6) Write and submit one or more short stories for the first time.
7) Decide if I am going to attend Marcon (a local science-fiction convention) in April or not.
8) Complete a first draft of my non-fiction project.

I've been doing a bad job of following up on this month's Writer's Platform-Building Campaign. This has been a combination of not having given it a high enough priority when I had time and then having some personal circumstances arise which cut back on the time I could spend on the computer some days recently. I still intend to get around to the blogs of everyone in my groups, but I'm not going to try to do the challenges, etc. this time. I'm sorry that I haven't been a better Campaigner this time around.

About a half-dozen people have tagged me to answer 11 questions as part of the campaign. Rather than trying to answer 66 questions, I've chosen one of the taggers (Melissa Sugar) and will answer her questions. Follow past the jump to see the Q&A.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Links & The Week in #storyeachnight: February 26, 2012 Edition

I've got some good news to announce. This week, on March 1st, I'll have a story published by Kazka Press as part of their monthly flash fiction contest. "A Minor God of Mischief" got submitted with literally just hours to spare before the deadline and I was thrilled to see that they liked it. I hope that you all enjoy it as well.

Recently I've been reading a short story (most) every day/night and tweeting about it under the #storyeachnight hashtag. Here are this week's stories along with my thoughts on them:

2/19 - "When Day is Dun" by Richard Matheson from THE SHORES OF SPACE. A poet seeks the proper epitaph for humanity.
2/20 - "Lobstersaurus" by Eric James Stone from the 5/12 Analog. Touching story of a girl & her giant alien pet.
2/21 - "The Prisoners" by D. K. Latta from Daily Science Fiction. Had an interesting, but maybe a bit unrealistic, scenario.
2/22 - "A Matter of Principal" by Max Allan Collins in FAVORITE KILLS. A retired hitman stumbles across a crime in progress.
2/23 - Accidentally Skipped
2/24 - "A Thousand Flowers" by Margo Lanagan from THE YEAR'S BEST DARK FANTASY AND HORROR: 2011. An interesting fantasy with some beautiful writing. Also, an interesting POV structure with three different first person chunks. (The formatting in my phone's Kindle reader app made the first POV jump a bit confusing to pick up on, but that's not a fault of the story.)
2/25 - "Clean Slate" by Lawrence Block from THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011. I didn't realize it until I got partway into the story, but this is the short story where Block first wrote about the main character from his novel Getting Off (which I still haven't gotten around to reading). Block is one of my favorite authors and this story was no disappointment. I'm sure the rest of the collection won't be, either. It was a treat getting this one for $1.99 from an Amazon Gold Box deal... (* My favorite for this week.)

And now, here are this week's writing-related links that I found interesting and worth sharing...

Thursday, February 23, 2012


God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

-Reinhold Niebuhr

If there’s a remedy when trouble strikes,
What reason is there for dejection?
And if there is no help for it,
What use is there in being glum?


There are similar sentiments expressed in both of these statements, one from a 20th-Century Protestant theologian from the United States and the other from an 8th-Century Buddhist scholar from India. At their core, both are about taking action when there is something which you would like to see be different in your world and also not letting things which cannot be changed make you unhappy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Rant and A Plan

I've had it. I'm sick and tired of feeling sorry for myself which I've been doing WAY too much lately. It doesn't solve anything, it doesn't make me feel better, and no one wants to hear about it!

I've let myself get too focused on the things which aren't going well in my life and it's distracted me from the things that are going well. And that's just not a good way to live.

Right now, right this minute, even though I'm achy and my rejection string is running up into the high double-digits, I've got a positive attitude. And darn it, I'm GOING to hang onto it.

Whew...  OK. It felt good to get that out. I went to my Tae Kwon Do class tonight for the first time in weeks and even though my arm and shoulder were sore, I did what I could with the other parts of my body. I've got some rejected stories that I need to get back out the door, and I'm going to do that tonight. And I'm going to finish revising the story for the Kazka Press contest that's due in under six hours as I type this blog post.

And I'm going to try my best to stay positive, no matter what.

Here endeth the rant.

The plan. Well, call this more a preview of a plan. I'm bringing back Dissecting the Short Story. I'm still working out all of the details, but I plan to post the details of the plan on Thursday this week. Here's a hint: Those polls you saw on the blog, about print and online publications?  Yeah. They're part of this.

For now, adieu... I've ranted my rant and teased my plan and now I'm going to get some small folks into bed and get to writing!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Links & The Week in #storyeachnight: February 19, 2012 Edition

As I mentioned last week, one routine I've picked up recently is reading a short story every day/night and tweeting about it under the #storyeachnight hashtag. I'm going to list the stories along with whatever comments I made about them on Twitter and any other thoughts that come to mind here in my weekly link roundpost post. Below are this week's stories:

2/12 - "Love Story" by Eric Frank Russell from MICROCOSMIC TALES. A general laments the impact of relationships on interstellar troop movements.
2/13 - "The Cat From Hell" by Stephen King from JUST AFTER SUNSET. A corker of a horror story about a dying man, a hitman & the titular cat. (* My favorite of the week.)
2/14 - "Angie" by Ed Gorman from FAVORITE KILLS. Crime story with an "Oh, gosh, please don't go there." climax.
2/15 - "Who Dealt?" from THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF RING LARDNER. Interesting monologue piece with an apparently clueless main character.
2/16 - "Sales Pitch" by Philip K. Dick from THE GOLDEN MAN. A satire of advertising and home conveniences gone mad.
2/17 - "This House Was Never a Castle" by Aaron Polson from issue 14 of Shimmer. A setting-drenched piece with children trying to make their way through a dangerous world.
2/18 - "The Dingus" by Gregory Frost from SUPERNATURAL NOIR. A good horror/mystery story about an ex-trainer trying to determine how a boxer he had once trained ended up dead. I'm really psyched about this Ellen Datlow-edited collection; very glad that my wife picked it up for me for my birthday!

And now, here are this week's writing-related links that I found interesting and worth sharing...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bumps in the Road & February Goal Progress

I've written previously about writing sometimes being frustrating. I've also written about what to do when you feel like you're just going to lose it in general.

I think I need to sit down and read each of those posts a dozen or so times.

Things -- on a whole variety of fronts -- have been really frustrating/rough recently. Nothing has been colossally bad. Probably the worst has been the ongoing difficulty with my right arm. I've started physical therapy for it but so far I haven't seen any real relief from the pain in it.

In general, though, I've just been feeling down and it's been harder than usual to keep things moving forward. I'm grateful for my Seinfeld Chain because it's been a major factor in keeping me from giving in to laziness and skipping writing altogether one or more days.

Most people end up going through these bumps in the road. To some extent, I've been through them before since I started writing actively again the middle of last year, though I can't recall any which felt quite this bumpy...

On to a slightly-happier note: Fortunately, looking at the progress I've made on my goals for this month is actually a relatively positive thing despite the frustrations I'm feeling. Below is a rundown of where I stand. There's really no good reason for me to not hit five of the six of these.

1) Spend time in the first half of the month analyzing my first draft of "Adrift" and time in the second half of the month planning the second draft. - I've made some progress on this, which is an improvement over last month. It's been slow progress, though, so I doubt I'll complete both halves of this task in February. Still, I'm happy that I am finally getting a bit of traction here.

2) Write 5,000 words of new fiction including at least one new short story. - I'm basically on track for the word count here and I've already completed one flash fiction, so I'm in good shape for the second part of this goal. Even though I haven't written a ton of words of fiction, I have made a good amount of progress on the non-fiction project I'd been considering.

3) Keep all my writing routines -- Seinfeld Chain, revised blogging schedule, etc. -No issues with this.

4) On 2/29, have one non-time-sensitive blog post written and ready for future use on a day when I'm not able to post something "new." - I used the one I had on hand as of 1/31, so I need to replace it.

5) Submit one or more short stories for the first time this month. - Done. Submitted "An Unsuitable Job for a Human" earlier this month.

6) Look more seriously at scheduling to attend Marcon in early April. - This is a local science fiction convention. I haven't really done much more thinking about this since late-January. I'll try to get out by their website and check admission costs, programming schedules, here soon.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pet Peeves: Continuity and Logic Errors

Somewhere along the line, most writers are going to be trying to convince someone (or lots of someones) to buy their story. It may be an editor, it may be readers if you go the self-publishing route. There's lots of things you don't want to do to people you're trying to get to buy your story. Making them feel bored is obviously a big no-no. Repeated typographical or grammatical errors are another one.

Something that's subtler, but a real pet peeve of mine, are errors in continuity, facts, or logic.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Links & The Week in #storyeachnight: February 12, 2012 Edition

I'm still working on adjusting to my new blogging schedule of Monday, Thursday, Sunday after having done Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday for several months. It sort of feels weird only writing up one mid-week blog post. I'm going to give it a while, though, and see how I feel about it after a couple of months.

One routine I've picked up recently is reading a short story every day/night and tweeting about it. Nicole Cushing has been doing this on the #storyeachnight hashtag for quite a few months. Here are the stories I read this week along with the comments I made on them.

2/5 - "Exit Interview" by Lynne Heitman from BOSTON NOIR: Office/gender politics & a hostage situation.
2/6 - "Cellmate" by Theodore Sturgeon from an old paperback of E PLURIBUS UNICORN
2/7 - "Fever Dream" from THE VINTAGE BRADBURY: Child realizes a danger no one else sees. Some chilling aspects. But it also felt a bit dated and not just because it had a doctor making house calls. "Fever Dream" & last night's "Cellmate" were both late-40s Weird Tales stories. I felt that Sturgeon's held up better.
2/8 - "Night Nurse" by Harry Shannon from FAVORITE KILLS: A nightmarish trip to a hospital for the MC in this story.
2/9 - "Mrs. Hatcher's Evaluation" by James Van Pelt from 3/12 Asimov's. Fun story,very critical of modern education theory
2/10 - "The Secret of the City of Gold" by Ron Goulart from the 1-2/12 issue of F&SF. It featured series character Harry Challenge, seems to have been intended to evoke the feel of old (old) school pulp fiction. I think I tend to be more forgiving of originals than pastiches & this didn't strike me as a terribly amusing pastiche.
2/11 - "Scrap Dragon" by Naomi Kritzer from the 1-2/12 F&SF. A fairy tale or bedtime story with LOTS of..."editorial" suggestions by the "listener." Quite enjoyable; it put a smile on my face.

As I do every Sunday, I've gathered together links I've liked/gotten something out of from things I've read this week. Here are this week's links...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

D. Thomas Minton Interview

Twice last year I had the opportunity to interview a writer whose story was analyzed as part of my "Dissecting the Short Story" series. It was a good experience both times and when D. Thomas Minton reached out to say that he had been pleased to see that I'd included his "Observations on a Clock" as an entry in the series, it looked like a great opportunity for another such conversation.

Michael Haynes: In the author notes for "Observations on a Clock" on your website you talked about the origin of the story. I sort of read into your comments that perhaps this story took a while to develop. Was that the case?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why Blog?

There's a good chance some new people will be stopping by my blog in the next few days as Rachael Harrie's Fourth Platform-Building Writers' Campaign gears up. Since most of those people will be writers with blogs of their own, this seems like a great time to discuss why I blog and get to hear the input of readers about why they blog.

First off all, let's talk about a reason which is not part of my rationale for blogging. For me -- and probably most of you as well -- it's not about making money directly from advertising or anything of that sort. I don't run any ads here and my little Amazon search box has led to exactly one purchase in the lifetime of the blog. So, yeah, not a moneymaker. And that's just fine.

Here are the three main reasons I do blog:
  1. For the socialization. Getting to meet and talk things over with other writers has had multiple benefits. For one, I've learned from them. A second benefit is that it's been fun getting to know a lot of other writers. The biggest benefit for me, though, has been having a community that I can chat with when I'm feeling good or bad about my writing and a set of people that I've traded critiques with where hopefully all of the parties involved have gotten useful feedback on their work.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Links: February 5, 2012 Edition

Before getting to the rest of the links, I wanted to call out Rachael Harrie's post from a couple of weeks back announcing a mini-Campaign for writers starting tomorrow, February 6th. Her Fall 2011 Campaign was a big part of my own success as a writer last year, providing me with a lot of new friends in the writing/blogging world and giving me a lot of encouragement. I plan to sign up for this month's activities and I hope they're as much fun as last fall's.

Now for this week's links...

"Scene and Structure: Make Something Happen" AND "Find Your Writing Tribe" (Daniel Swensen at Surly Muse) - Normally, I only link to one post per blogger per week. But Daniel hit it out of the park with both of these, and I couldn't decide which one to pick, so I'm breaking my "rule." In the first link, Daniel reminds us to make sure that each scene has meaning and keeps the story moving forward. In the second, he talks about the importance of having fellow writers to learn from, celebrate with and, when necessary, commiserate with. Two excellent posts from a fine blogger.

"Tips for Writing a Traditional Murder Mystery" (Elizabeth Craig guest-posting on Nicole Basaraba's Uni-Verse-City) - I thought that this post made for a nice primer on writing mysteries for those who've never tackled the genre and it also provides good reminders for those who have worked with mysteries in the past.

"Craft Thursday: Stupid Writer Tricks" (Jaye Wells) - Jaye talks about several different tricks that she uses to make sentences and paragraphs keep pulling the reader along. A nice set of tips for when you're fine-tuning your prose.

"Kind is Sometimes Cruel" (KT Hanna) - KT talks about the fact that giving a writer "kind" or "pleasant" feedback not only isn't helpful, but is actively harmful. It keeps the writer from hearing what they have to hear to move forward. And it's so easy for a writer to hear someone saying "You're doing great" and believe it, even when it isn't true. (Of course, it's also easy for a writer to hear someone saying "You're doing lousy" and believe it, even when it isn't true.) The best thing you can do is find people who will give you honest (but tactful) feedback. KT talks about some of the techniques that go into this.

"The PEST Method" (Alex Shvartsman's Speculative Fiction) - Alex talks about the four elements he takes into account when deciding where to submit his short fiction: Prestige, Exposure, Speed, and Terms. Well worth reading, especially if you're looking to submit short stories for the first time or haven't ever given much thought to how you pick where to send your stories.

Additionally, here's a recap of the posts from this week on my blog:

"Final January #writemotivation wrapup" - The #writemotivation activity for January wrapped up this week and I posted a final review of where I stood with my goals for the month. I ended things on a high note by adding 2000 words to a short story in the final two days of January.

"Using a Routine" - Inspired by a blog post by Eric J. Krause I talked about writing routines and what they can do for you.

I appreciate you stopping by to check out the links. Are there any writing-related articles/blog posts you've read this week which really inspired you?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Using a Routine

I've talked a lot in the past about how having a routine (writing every day, blogging on specific days, etc.) seems to be a major factor in my ability to keep progressing towards my writing goals. Within those routines, though, I don't have smaller routines. For example, I don't always write in the same place, or at the same time of day, or for the same amount of time, etc. Probably the closest thing to another "routine" that I have is that I always do first drafts in Google Docs and then revise in Word. That, plus if I have trouble focusing, I'll put some instrumental music through headphones to help me avoid distractions.

Generally speaking, those things which I might call "micro-routines" haven't seemed like something I've really needed so far. But, as I've mentioned in the past, every writer works differently. So, I found it interesting to read Eric J. Krause's post on his own writing routine. This post focuses on the routine of an individual writing session -- how he breaks it up in half with a little break time in the middle, etc. He, too, points out that the specifics which work for him won't necessarily work for everyone and suggests some alternative ways of arranging your sessions.

Like I said, I haven't found a need to add that type of routine to my other writing routines so far. But if I reach a point where I'm having consistently frustrating writing sessions, I think I'll be likely to come back to this post and see what from it I might adapt for my own writing.

As with so many things I've discussed before, the most important thing here is to find what works for you and stick to it. That probably will mean taking a little piece of advice here and a little piece of advice there and so on. And that's just fine. There's no reason that your big picture writing habits should look much like anyone else's as long as you're making progress towards your goals.

What routines have you found that work for you?