Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"The Flower of Memory" is Live on Intergalactic Medicine Show

My story "The Flower of Memory" is up now as part of the July issue of Intergalactic Medicine Show. IGMS is subscription-only, so unless you've got (or purchase) a subscription, you'll only be able to see the preview of the story and the wonderful illustration which accompanies it.

Long-time readers of my blog might notice a certain familiar bit of imagery. "The Flower of Memory" arose as a byproduct of the short-lived Call and Response Flash Fiction series on my blog last fall. It was one of two concepts which the provided prompt suggested to me and though it took a little while to get the story to come out right, I'm very glad that it's out now and found such a good home.

Monday, July 30, 2012

July #writemotivation Goals Wrapup and August Goals

With the month coming to a close, I'm looking back to see how I did at meeting my goals for the past month and looking forward to set goals for August.

July Goals

1) Keep all my writing routines -- Daily Writing Chain, blogging schedule, etc. - Done, assuming I get all of my words in for today and tomorrow.

2) Write at least one new story. - Done. In fact, I wrote a total of seven new stories. They're all short, but it's been my most productive month in terms of number of new stories completed in a long time.

3) Submit at least four stories for the first time. - Done. I thought I might exceed this by a bit, but I'm pleased to have met it.

4) Write 7,500 words of new fiction. - Done.

5) On 7/31, have two non-time-sensitive blog posts written and ready for future use on a day when I'm not able to post something "new." - This one didn't happen. I have one pending blog post, but it's somewhat time-specific, so I'll be using it soon.

6) Launch at least one new eBook. - As previously discussed, this didn't end up happening.

Moving on to August...

August Goals

1) Keep all my writing routines -- Daily Writing Chain, blogging schedule, etc.

2) Write at least one new story.

3) Submit at least three stories for the first time.

4) Write 10,000 words of new fiction. - I'm increasing the goal after multiple months of meeting 7,500 words without much difficulty. I want to push myself a bit more for the rest of the year in terms of getting a slightly higher total word count done. I won't end up anywhere near what I had originally conceived of as my word count goal for the year (250,000) but increasing my monthly target will feel like a step in the right direction.

5) On 8/31, have two non-time-sensitive blog posts written and ready for future use on a day when I'm not able to post something "new."
6) Get a revised version of my novelette out to beta readers. - I made some progress on this earlier in the month but then set it aside again. A couple of solid writing sessions and I should be able to get this ready for other people to look at it again.

7) Launch at least one new eBook.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Links: July 29, 2012 Edition

July is almost over, can you believe it? Tomorrow I'll post my month-end goal status and also write up my planned goals for August. It's been basically a year to the day since I returned to writing last summer and I'm very pleased with how the past year has gone writing-wise. I'm excited to see where the next 12 months take me.

If you missed it earlier this week my mystery story "Present Company" ran on Every Day Fiction on July 24th.

Also, as a reminder, there's still over a month until the August 31st deadline for submissions for Unidentified Funny Objects.

Below are this week's writing-related links that I wanted to share with my readers. Also, if you're so inclined, Kasia James has a guest post up today on my Write Every Day blog where she talks about, well, about NOT writing every day.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Coping with Criticism

There's been a lot of talk recently in various writerly circles about how writers handle criticism, particularly in the form of negative reviews.

I've been unreasonably fortunate so far -- unless I've suppressed a memory, I haven't gotten any truly negative comments/reviews on my published work so far. I'm well aware that a large part of this track record, though, is that my readership is rather small. I'm certain that I'll end up facing negative comments on future stories in one form or another. And though I can imagine it might cause me a bit of angst, particularly the first few times I encounter that, I intend to do my best to not let negative reviews get me down.

Here are some of the things that I'll try to remember when the day arrives where I first am faced with someone who publicly says they really didn't care for something I had written.
  1. Everyone likes different things in fiction. There simply aren't going to be any universally-liked stories. Different people take different things from each story that is published. For that matter, even a single individual might react differently to a story on one day than they would if they read the same story on a different day, in a different mood, having read a different set of other stories recently.
  2. It's not personal. This one's a bit harder, especially since there are times when -- for a writer -- a story is very personal to them. There are certainly some stories of mine that I have more of an emotional investment in than others. I suspect that it will be harder to read negative comments of those stories than of others. But as far as the criticism being given, that is not personal. The reviewer isn't saying that they don't like you; just that they didn't like the story which you had written. And if the comments that they leave are personal -- calling you, the writer, out rather than your story -- then I think it's somewhat reasonable to presume that they weren't made with good intentions. The best thing I can think of there is to put it out of your mind. While a negative comment about a story would have the potential to help you improve your craft for future stories, a negative comment about you can't do any good.
  3. If you have to vent about it, do so privately. I don't think much looks worse for a writer than to complain about negative reviews. If you really have to grumble and get it off your chest, do so in a private conversation with friends, not in a public forum. And remember, that just about everywhere on the Internet is a public forum.
I'll close with this thought which, in fact, was the origin for this post. I recently got the following fortune in a cookie after a meal: "If you have no critics you'll likely have no success." You can interpret that two ways -- that everyone needs constructive criticism to do their best or that the only way to avoid criticism is to be so "under the radar" that you're probably not meeting most definitions of "success." Both seem valid, though it was the second interpretation that I first keyed in on when reading the slip.

I hope that everyone has a great writing weekend and that all your reviews are positive!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Present Company" is live at Every Day Fiction

My mystery short story "Present Company" is live today at Every Day Fiction. I'm as much of a fan of mystery and crime short fiction as I am of science fiction and fantasy, so having a mystery story published for the first time is a treat for me.

This story was inspired by a passing comment from a coworker at lunch one day late last year. I hope that you enjoy reading it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23rd #writemotivation Update

July is a #writemotivation goal-check month so every Monday this month I'm blogging about my goals and how I'm coming along with them.
July Goals

1) Keep all my writing routines -- Daily Writing Chain, blogging schedule, etc. - On target. Adding in the "Write Every Day" blog posts has made this a bit more of a challenge than usual. My intention had been to have those prepped a week ahead so I could just let them post at midnight each morning, but that hasn't worked out too well so far. I'll see if I can get a better handle on that in the upcoming weeks.

2) Write at least one new story. - I've actually finished first drafts (or more) of six short stories this month. They're all very short; the longest is just over 2,000 words, but I'm very pleased with the overall output.

3) Submit at least four stories for the first time. - I'm still sitting at three here, but I don't think I'll have any problem getting a fourth out the door. I might try to go beyond this a bit, if I can make time in the next week.

4) Write 7,500 words of new fiction. - I'm just shy of this total now; I should surpass it easily.

5) On 7/31, have two non-time-sensitive blog posts written and ready for future use on a day when I'm not able to post something "new." - Adding the Write Every Day blogging which I mentioned above has sort of taxed my blogging time. I don't think it's "too much"; rather, I think I just haven't found the right routine/schedule yet. I hope to get more on track with this in August.

6) Launch at least one new eBook. - I'm not going to be releasing the item I had originally planned as being my July release; I simply haven't put enough time towards it. It still needs another pass through of revisions and then one more round of critiquing and revisions before it's ready to go. I have a mystery short I might release though the one mystery I already released ("Levels of Trust") has been my slowest-selling item, so the incentive to work on another straight mystery title is slim.

I hope that everyone working on #writemotivation this month is having a great go of it! See you for another goal check next Monday!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Links: July 22nd, 2012 Edition

It's been a rather quiet month around here writing-wise. I've made progress on a number of fronts, but haven't really had much in the way of exciting news to report. There's nothing wrong with that -- in fact, it's rather typical. The last couple of months certainly spoiled me a bit, though, with all the story sales and other exciting news that I got to share. But I absolutely can't complain about the progress I've made with getting various stories written and revised, which is equally important, if less exciting to talk about.

Below are this week's writing-related links that I wanted to share with my readers. Also, if you're so inclined, C. Bryan Brown has a guest post up today on my Write Every Day blog where he talks about how he's developed his writing rituals.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thoughts on NaNoWriMo 2012

We may be in the heat of summer right now, but in just a few months we'll be coming up fast on the first of November and the start of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I haven't figured out yet what I'll be doing writing-wise during that month. Last year I wrote the first draft of a YA time-travel fantasy "Adrift." I have yet to get back to doing a second draft of it.

I'd said earlier in the year that I didn't want to work on a new novel project without making an effort to see "Adrift" through to further drafts. On the one hand, I wonder if "Adrift" is even salvageable -- I'd only been back to writing several months when I wrote that draft and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it had major flaws. On the other hand, that feels like sort of a cop-out -- an excuse to leave something undone.

Monday, July 16, 2012

July 16th #writemotivation Update

In last Monday's blog post I mentioned that I was going to add a "Special Projects" option which I could use once per month to my Daily Writing Chain. I did this for the first time one night last week, getting a whole bunch of my stories which had been sitting around back out the door. The final tally was seven submissions and one pre-submission query. So far I've received a go-ahead to submit based on the query and a rewrite request from one of the seven submissions. Woo-hoo!

Writing-wise in general, things keep trucking along with no major news to report. Since July is a #writemotivation goal-check month, the rest of today's post is devoted to looking at my goals for July and how I'm coming along with them.

July Goals

1) Keep all my writing routines -- Daily Writing Chain, blogging schedule, etc. - No problems here. I feel like adding the "Special Projects" option worked well this month; I'll wait several months, though, before deciding if I want to keep it as a feature of my Daily Writing Chain.

2) Write at least one new story. - Done (and then some).

3) Submit at least four stories for the first time. - I'm at three now. Two of the stories I sent out during last week's Submit-o-Rama were first timers and I had sent out one prior to that. Over the weekend I did significant revisions to a longer story and put it up for critique on a site where I'm a member. I may or may not try to get that story out the door yet this month. If not, I shouldn't have too much difficulty finding some other suitable target.

4) Write 7,500 words of new fiction. - I'm solidly on target for this, with just under 5,000 new words of fiction written so far this month.

5) On 7/31, have two non-time-sensitive blog posts written and ready for future use on a day when I'm not able to post something "new." - I'm still at zero. There's a fair chance I won't meet this goal, though I might if I prioritize it highly enough.

6) Launch at least one new eBook. - Like I discussed in last Monday's #writemotivation goal check, there's a very good chance I won't end up releasing an eBook this month. The item I had planned to release in July needs more work and there isn't an obvious second choice. I may try to get two out in one month to "catch up" but if I end up releasing a total of eight eBook titles in 2012 rather than nine, I won't feel like that's a major "miss" goal-wise.

I hope that everyone working on #writemotivation this month is having a great go of it! See you for another goal check next Monday!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday Links: July 15th, 2012 Edition

Is it really possible that the typical summer break from school here in Ohio (and, I believe, much of the rest of the United States) is essentially half-over now? We're at the mid-point of July, that's for certain! Typically, I review my goal status at mid-month; since Mondays are #writemotivation days in July, my goal check post will be up tomorrow.

I had an extremely productive writing day Saturday along with a first for me. With some of my stories beginning to come off their exclusivity periods with their first publishers, they are available for reprints. Yesterday, I made my first submissions to foreign-language markets. There are some markets which will accept English-language submissions for translation; they often pay only in copies, but for a reprint and for the chance to see my story printed in another language, I'm okay with that. Douglas Smith has a nice list of non-English markets for speculative short fiction and that is what I used for my market research.

Speaking of links, below are the writing-related links I've collected this week which I thought would be good to share with others. If you've found some interesting links this week, I hope you will share them in the comment section below!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Inflection Points for Writers (and Characters)

Today's blog post isn't really about writing. Except in a way, it is.

I've been thinking a lot the past few days about inflection points in life. I'm very pleased -- thrilled, in fact -- with the way the last year in writing has gone for me. And it has been, almost exactly, a year now since the day I woke up with an idea for a short story in my head and sat down and wrote my first complete piece of fiction in several years.

And I can trace all of that back to something completely and totally unrelated to writing that had happened several months before. An action I had decided to take early last year, and the events which resulted from it, led directly to the story idea. And that story was the spark to all of this...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"An Unsuitable Job for a Human" is Live at Nature.com

One of the things that I've aspired to in writing is to have something that will last on beyond my lifetime. I own a large collection of science fiction and mystery digest magazines and sometimes when perusing through those I'll come across a story by an author I've never heard of before and it's always interesting to have that experience and realize that this publication may well have represented a major dream and accomplishment for that person.

In a way I've accomplished that with publication in Nature. "An Unsuitable Job for a Human" is live on their website today and will be in their print edition dated July 12, 2012. With this journal's prominence, that means that my story will end up in hundreds of libraries and likely stay in their permanent collections. (Well, as permanent as any print journal collection can be considered to be, I suppose.) Though this isn't the first publication you think of when you think of Science Fiction, I'm still very pleased at this milestone in my writing and publishing career. I do hope I can make it into one or more of the remaining digest magazines' print editions before those, as all things must, come to an end.

This sale is special to me for a number of reasons beyond that. It was my first pro-market sale, which opened up some additional opportunities for me. It was also the first story I had written (other than those for themed calls) which sold at the first market to which I submitted it.

Unlike many of my stories, this is one where I thought of the title first and then wanted to come up with a story to fit that title. I had to roll it around in my head for a little while, but I'm quite happy with the results.

I hope that you take a few minutes to read it -- it's short -- and that if you do so, you enjoy it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday July 9th #writemotivation Update

First off, I have publication dates to announce for two of my short stories. Nature will be running "An Unsuitable Job for a Human" in their July 12, 2012 issue. It should be available to read on-line beginning in the late-afternoon of the 11th for readers in North America. Also, Every Day Fiction will be running "Present Company" on July 24th. I'll post links as soon as these are available for reading.

July being a #writemotivation month, I'm going to be posting status update on my goals for the month every Monday. Before I get to that though, I wanted to mention a new wrinkle I'm adding to my Daily Writing Chain. My current goals are to write 500 words every day (which can take the form of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, blog post writing, and/or critiques for other writers) or spend 45 minutes on intensive revisions.

Well, I've gotten massively behind on my fiction submissions/re-submissions. Enough so that it's going to take me an hour or two some day to get stories that are ready for submission out to market.

Now I don't normally want to include time spent submitting stories as "writing" time for my Chain. But it seems that every once in a while I might have a "Special Project" of some kind that's truly writing-related but that doesn't fit my existing criteria.

So I'm going to try letting myself have one "Special Project" day per month for my Chain. I have to spend at least an hour of serious, focused work on that project and it has to be something that genuinely helps move my writing career forward. I'm going to give that a try this month (with a day in the very near future where I blast through a bunch of submissions as my July "Special Project") and keep it as an option for now. If it starts to turn into a nuisance, I'll get rid of it. But I think it will prove a valuable option which, at once a month, shouldn't really decrease my overall output in any notable way.

As always, I'll let everyone know how this goes and whether it is something that I think is useful as an option for people or if it's something that I think poses challenges or risks I haven't considered so far.

So, with that in mind, let's go on to the #writemotivation July progress report below the jump!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday Links: July 8th, 2012 Edition

Another busy week around here both in terms of keeping up with my daily writing routine and in terms of non-writing parts of my life. I ended up having to reschedule my revision day away from this past Friday since I had another (fun and important, but time-consuming) obligation for another weekday around the same time and I couldn't justify scheduling two days off work in such a short span of time. I'll look to try to fit my revision day in sometime soon, though, since I really do want to try to get some of these stories cleaned up and ready to go out to the door.

Here are the links I've collected for this week. If you've come across a recent link which you'd like to share, please mention it in the comments, as I always love seeing new and interesting information about writing and fiction in general.

This week's links are past the jump...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Four Ways To Prime the Idea Pump

Writers deal in ideas; we take ideas out of our heads, combine them into stories, novels, articles, poems, essays, etc. and put them out for others to read.

For many writers, the problem is in fact too many ideas, more than they would ever have time to write. And the resulting task is to winnow the set of possible ideas down to the ones which seem most promising and work with them.

However, there are times when the idea pool can feel a bit dry. What can you do to try to get your creativity flowing when you've hit a situation like this? Here are four ideas for priming the idea pump and getting your writing flowing again.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Leaving it All on the Page" Guest Post on Alex Shvartsman's Blog

I have a guest post today on Alex Shvartsman's blog titled "Leaving it All on the Page."

Here are a couple of snippets:
To “leave it all on the field” in sports means to have not held anything back, to have given your all. I thought of this concept last night watching — of all things — Saturday Night Live audition videos. Here I saw Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, John Belushi… All of them leaving it all on their chosen field. The camera was on just them but you could occasionally hear commentary (and very occasionally, laughter) from those who were watching the auditions. All of these people were skilled performers to have reached that point, but you could see on their faces just how important this moment was to them. It was absolutely fascinating.
When writing for publication, if you want to reach the top levels, you’re unlikely to meet with success doing things halfway. You have to leave it all on the field or, in our case, the page.
To read the whole thing, go to Alex's blog and check it out.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Can Praise Be Damaging?

My Monday Motivation post today on the Write Every Day blog was based on a quote from Mark Twain about avoiding people who belittle your ambitions. There was a very interesting reply comment which read (in part, with emphasis added by me):
"I try to avoid extreme negativity about me or my ventures (and also extreme positivity). Both can burrow into your heart and paralyze you."

When I read that my first reaction was along the lines of "Huh. I wonder why extreme positivity would be so bad." But it actually only took me a minute or so to come up with a few possible scenarios.

The one that speaks most to me is that there's a risk in being too willing to listen to the people that give unconditional praise of my work. After all, if two people are talking to me about a story I've written and one says "Oh my gosh, it's the best thing ever!!!" and the other says "Meh. Well, I liked this and this but that and that need some work." then it's a heck of a lot easier to only listen to the first person. But there are plenty of times when that will lead to slightly lazy, slightly sloppy work going out on submission, which isn't where you want to be going if you're trying to succeed at the top-level markets.

But then again -- here's where it gets really tricky -- sometimes listening to the first person is the right thing to do. Maybe the story as written would be "better" than the story as revised to meet the second person's preferences. After all, every single story that's ever been written will have a certain percentage of readers who simply don't like it. I've seen stories nominated for major awards get absolutely shredded by readers. Not because they're contrary or "didn't get it" or anything like that. It just won't have hit their fiction-loving buttons.

So judgement is required. You have to know when to trust your gut and which opinions to trust when you're getting feedback on your work. And this ties back to the original statement, too. If someone is always positive about your work, if they just love every word you've ever written... Then they're not helpful as someone to provide feedback on your work because you already know what they're going to say.

Are there other ways than these that you've found praise for your writing to be damaging?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday Links: July 1st, 2012 Edition

The link that's nearest and dearest to me this week is for "Write Every Day: Hints & Tips Towards a Daily Writing Routine." This is the non-fiction project I had been working on periodically during the first half of this year. I'm very pleased at the initial response it's received, with two five-star reviews on Amazon and multiple other nice sets of comments about it from readers. It also showed up on three different Amazon Top 100 best-seller lists around the time of its launch. It's since fallen off those, but it was pleasing to see it make a (small) splash like that.

A close second is "Unidentified Funny Objects" -- the pro-paying speculative fiction humor anthology I'm assisting with. Submissions are officially open to the public now, so if you've been waiting to submit, now is the time.

As I mentioned last week, I'm no longer including #storyeachnight and #poemeachnight information in this weekly links rounding. My tweets about these daily reading projects should still be available to review on Twitter for those who are curious.

So, for now, let's head to the links: