My Writing Process Start to Finish


Since it’s the New Year, I thought I’d write about my creative process from beginning to end.

The Idea

I have a bunch of random ideas that I pluck when I’m ready.  Most of them are pretty vague.  Like in my writing group, we were talking about a movie with giant robots, so I thought that would be kind of cool for a story.  Can robots be ghosts?

Start the story

Then I start the story.  I don’t do any prep.  I don’t figure out any major events of the story or come up with the ending.  Nothing of what typically gets recommended that writers “should” do.  If I do any of those things, the critical voice takes over and wrecks the story.

I just follow the front of the story.  It’s hard in the beginning.  In fact, it’s sometimes really scary starting the story.  Part of me is screaming, “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”  That’s critical brain freaking out.  It feels like that scene in Indiana Jones where he steps off the cliff and has to trust that he’s doing the right thing.  Writing like this is really about trusting yourself.  I’ve found that while the beginning is always scary, it gets easier to manage the more I write.

I sort of write in order and sort of don’t.  I may hop ahead in a scene and write something, then hop back and write something, then rearrange things.  Other things come out of the story right away, and I dropped those in an extras file so I can still count it as part of my word count.  Scrivener will show a negative word count if I delete too much, even though I’ve done a lot of work.  My process is very messy though while creative brain tries out different things.  It may be like a fussy dog that picks up a bone, then abandons it, then goes back to it again (in my case, types the sentence I just moved to extras file), abandons it again, and find works around that it really wanted this other bone.

The first chapter usually comes out pretty stable.  Most of what’s in it will be what I use when I’m done.  That wasn’t always the case, but something that evolved as I added new writing skills.  It used to be that I started in the wrong place and it was hard figuring out where that was.  That’s why doing more stories—and not repeating the same mistakes—has been so helpful.

Cycling

After that, I write and cycle.  Cycling is something that many writers mistake for revision or editing (terms they use interchangeably and shouldn’t).  The definitions:

Revision/Editing: Oh no!  This is horrible!  What was I thinking when I wrote that?  It’s garbage.  I have to fix it.

Tweak that word.  Tweak this word.  I have to make it perfect.

Cycling:  This way cool thing just came into my story.  I have to go back to chapter 2 and add a paragraph for it.  Hmm.  And maybe I need a scene with this character, too.   Ooh, and I just got this idea! (shuffles off to Chapter 9.)

My cycling is more random than other writers describe it.  They typically go back a scene or 500 words.  I tend to bounce around the story like a pinball machine.  The scenes all connect in my head, so if I adding something to one scene, those brain cells fire and remind me that it’s in another scene, too. A lot of it is adding a sentence or two.

The key to cycling is to not leave any big issues unfinished.  That’s where revision itself becomes extra work—if an important scene is left for the revision because it’s too hard (guilty), then everything that follows will be broken because of that missing scene.  Cycling forces me to think about why something is not working instead of skipping it.

I also use cycling for proofreading.  I make many, many passes over the story to catch typos.  Considering how many I know I make, I’ve been impressed that my copy editor typically only finds one or two in an entire novel—and it’s usually a harder one that was easy to miss.  Like typing statement instead of stateroom, which I do pretty regularly.

As I get near the climax of the story, I’ll get an irresistible urge to cycle through the entire story.  I’ll start at the beginning and scan through it.  I’m looking for more typos and stubs that don’t fit in with the story.  My creative side likes to puts stuff in, and a lot of it I do use.  But sometimes it puts something in and then forgets it’s there and never uses it.  I used to have a lot of stubs at one point—attempting outlining caused them to breed.  My creative side wasn’t happy that critical side was directing the story, so it left them everywhere, including way out of order.  Then, it was hundreds of stubs.  Now it’s two or three.

Finishing the Story

This part of the process is making sure everything is pulled together and fits so I can hit the ending at a run without worrying about anything else.  Then it’s write straight through to the end and cycle a few more times to make sure I’ve nailed the ending…and the story is done.

The whole process keeps evolving.  Next year, it’ll probably be different.

What I learned About Writing from Space 1999


Comet TV has been running the 1970s science fiction show, Space 1999.  They had a New Year’s Eve marathon, so I tuned in on and off during the day.

The History of the Show

It ran two seasons and starred Martin Landau and Barbara Bain.  They manned a base on the moon that was used to store nuclear waste.  The nuclear waste then exploded with enough force that it knocked the moon out of orbit.

According to my Google Fu, the producers were puzzled at the negative comments they got at the time.  They didn’t understand why viewers didn’t give the show the suspension of disbelief that Star Trek got (yup, there’s a reason).  The show was cancelled after the first season, but the producers were able to negotiate to bring it back.  Fred Freilberger was at the helm (Star Trek), and he made it more action-focused.  But it didn’t fix the overall issue, and it was cancelled a second time.

Writer’s Hat On

The suspension of disbelief issues started with the a message in the story.  The producers wanted to show that nuclear waste was bad.  They got on a soapbox and wrapped the whole series around the moon being blown out of orbit.

And then?

The characters simply react to the next thing the moon drifts near, and then the moon drifts away.  The entire setup of the show kept them from having any kind of control over their own fate.  In one episode, they drifted near an alien planet.  Aliens did not want them on the planet, but inexplicably send rockets to the moon to give it atmosphere for a little while, then pulled back the rockets.  The moon drifted away.  And?

The characters couldn’t get rescued.

They couldn’t settle on a planet.

Above all, they couldn’t even protag.

 

Roundup of 2018 Goals and What’s New For 2019


I’ve had a love-hate relationship with goals.  My tendency is to set them too aggressively, and then a little voice steps in and informs me that I’m not getting any of them.  I remember setting a goal of 10 books in a year in one of Dean Wesley’s Smith’s workshops.  How many did I get that year?  None.

Big change this year was one of the issues with my day job cleared up.  I was the only one doing a job for at least two people.  When I took leave, the work stopped and nothing got done, so I was perpetually behind and stressed out.  Imagine having hard stop deadlines that must be completed and then having a crisis that sucks up an entire week.  That was a normal for me.  It made it hard to come home and do actual writing.  A lot of times, I’d hit the weekend, when I should have lots of time for writing, and all I could do was … nothing.  I’d tried Writing in Public until suddenly everything collided at once, and it was just too much for me.

Cursed Planet cover with Hope Delgado in a space suitCursed Planet

This was a novel that was the result of Writing in Public.  I did a redraft of the story because I knew I had structural issues.  This was an area I had a lot of trouble with for years, and the only solution craft books provided was to outline.  Somehow, I was supposed to get structure from outlining, and instead, it broke my stories.

The Novel Structure workshop had been available for several months from Dean Wesley Smith, but my creative brain went for the Research for Fiction Writers first.  Then it wanted the Novel Structure, and then Secondary Plots, and then Teams.  One right after another.  It was an interesting few months!

This book also marked my first professionally designed cover.  I realized that I was never going to get into paper books if I didn’t have someone else design the cover.  I have a PC and not a Mac, where the software is readily available and easy to use, and I haven’t had the energy to spend trying to figure out what to do to create it.

Shuttle leaves space cruisar

Crying Planet

This was my first book in the GALCOM series, inspired partially by the Ghost on Drugs anthology call–it was a short story that turned into a novella. Kevin J. Anderson did a call for military science fiction for a story bundle.  My head went, “It’s not military science fiction.”  It has military in it, but the main character is a civilian.  But I pasted in the information and the links, and next thing I know, I’m in a StoryBundle.  Holy cow!  Someone even wrote me and said it sounded like something Baen would publish!

 

Spaceship orbiting a planetLonely Planet

This is the second book in the series. It’s up with the cover designer now for a face-lift and a print cover.  I’m also thinking of doing a large print version.

And it’s getting a name change to Ghost Ship.

I love the original title.  It fits the book.

And it’s the same name as a travel book series.  No one’s ever going to be able to find it.  So title change it is!  The new cover and title should be out sometime in March, or possibly late February.  Depends on when I get the cover.

Digital Minimalism: Reduce the Clutter on Your Computer Now

This is a non-fiction book that was the result of attending the BookBaby conference and hearing Joanna Penn speak.  The title is an Amazon search keyword, and when I searched on it, I found a New York release for February 4 on that topic.  So it became my first attempt at meeting a deadline, which was December 31 to allow me another three weeks to get copy edits, a cover, and a print/ebook build.  I finished the book two weeks early, and it’s in with a friend for copy editing.  Cover will be premade.

The book will be released on January 29.  I’m hoping that when people go in to buy the other book, they’ll see mine below and buy it, too.

Short Stories

This year, I decided I’m done with short stories for now,  and this time I’m going to stick with it.  I’ve always thought if I could nail a pro published story–and I was getting personal rejects from pro editors–it would help my sales.  However, the market contracted for me this year.  Too many of the pro markets have been focusing on political topics.  As reader, if I ran across an anthology with an obvious political subject, I’d pass it on it.  While it’s impossible to avoid politics (especially in science fiction), I don’t want someone to get on a soap box and lecture me on it.  Not fun for this reader.  I doubt if it would even be worth the time to write the story, especially since it would likely never fit into the calls.

Besides, I need to focus on longer fiction, and my series fiction, particularly.

Mailing List

I stepped off the deep and started a mailing list this year.  If you’re interested in signing up, you’ll get five very short emails a week.  Includes writing tips, some videos/podcast, and whatever else I find that is interesting.

New for 2019

Last Stand

This if the fourth book in the series and my commitment to simply hit a deadline I set.  So January 31.  This one takes what I learned in all four of those workshops from a year ago and is doing something I always wanted to do: More action. I get to blow up a space station!

I’m also going to plan to get some reviews for this one.

Golden Lies

A new historical mystery series with Al Travers, private investigator.  It’s set in 1947, Los Angeles, California, and the character is connected with Hollywood.  It’s an interesting time in history because World War II has just ended, and the studio system is about to end.  This one is a product of the Research for Fiction Writers workshop.  I read books on this era when I was growing up.  And I grow up in Los Angeles in the 1970s–it wouldn’t have been that different from the 1940s.

I haven’t decided on a deadline for this yet.  I’m going to Superstars in early February, so I’m not sure how that’s going to impact my time.  I may alternate with this and the GALCOM titles because this will have a different cover artist (the one who did Cursed Planet only does SF and Fantasy).  Gives me a chance to be more flexible on schedules and still get books out.

I also have titles for additional GALCOM books, though I haven’t decided on what’s next.  But they are:

  • Giant Robots (from my writing group.  Brought back memories of Johnny Socco and his Giant Flying Robot.)
  • Space Murder (inspired by a premade cover that said Deep Space Murder.  Ghosts and murder..yeah, I could deal.)
  • Zombie Planet (no clue other than the title…but zombies and ghosts…mmmm.).
  • Space Pirates (ghosts and pirates)
  • Space Ghost (it’s an Amazon search term)
  • Shuttle Crash (really, how can I not do  a story like this?)
  • Most Dangerous Planet (probably not the final title, but it’s a version of Most Dangerous Game)
  • Ship Graveyard (inspired by an episode of Space 1999, but really, a staple of all action-adventure).

Any title anyone wants to see?

Travel Tips for Writers (tentative title)

A non-fiction book on some aspects of travel no one talks about.  Everyone else talks about how to get the best deals.  Mine’s on the parts that get people into trouble if they don’t pay attention.  My day job is travel administrator, so this is a topic that will play to an expertise.  I’ll use a premade cover.

Writer’s Toolkit: Time Saving Strategies

This is a book that was the result of my day job.  I was so overwhelmed at one point that I was reading all kinds of time management books.  One was on systems and talked about going through processes to identify unnecessary steps.  So I went on a hunt to do that for my work-related tasks. But there are a lot of places where writers add unnecessary steps.

I’m also pondering doing a book on Scrivener for Windows and one on picking writing workshops without getting burned or scammed.

That’s going to be the start of my year.

What did you accomplish in 2018?  What do you want to accomplish in 2019?

Marketing and Fiction Writers


This was sparked by a comment on one of Dean Wesley Smith’s posts (the one from Jay on December 10).

It was along the lines of “Do I really have to put myself out in social media to sell books?  I’m not comfortable putting out information about myself.”

The comment could have been written by me.

I started out doing actor David Hedison’s website.  We wanted to keep a barrier between his personal life and the fans.  The fans?  They would have asked for his underwear size and what type if they could.

And I was seeing people put everything out.  One writer started listing the medication she was on in her blog, and it wasn’t cold medicine.  Way too much information!

Having been in the military, this level of information flow bothered me.  We’re trained over and over “Loose lips sink ships.”

But I kept seeing that Twitter was the big thing.  Everything I saw said to post 10 times a day to get any kind of visibility—when the heck did anyone write anyway?

So I tried Twitter.

Then, it was about the numbers.  You had so many followers, or got a certain score.  Services allowed you to follow people and hopefully they followed you back.  And it was all shiny and new.

There was one writer I ran across who had 8,000 followers.  I was astounded.  How had he managed that?  His books must be selling up a storm!

Well…no.

His books were riddled with typos and poorly written.  Everyone liked him on Twitter.  Couldn’t give him the time of day with his books.  He eventually tried short stories because they took less time to produce and disappeared eventually.

I tolerated Twitter for a while.  I quickly found that if you’re a writer, you get followed by other writers who spam you about their books.  Or if you’re on a hashtag associated with writing, you’ll get spammed.  I did a social media class on blogging and Twitter and we had a nice discussion on the hashtag.  Then a writer started sending autotweets promoting herself to the group.  The members tried tweeting her.  Then they tried email.  Then they reported her as spam to Twitter and got her suspended.  She got back on and started right up with more spam.  One of the members finally joined her Facebook group and openly posted to her board where everyone else could see and asked why she was spamming us.  She denied it, but the tweets stopped.

By then, I’d had my fill of Twitter.  Way too hard to keep up.  Definitely not fun, and I’m sure it showed.  I’m an introvert, and Twitter made me feel like I was dragged to a party for mandatory fun (it’s an Army thing).

During this I took a writer’s social media course.  I’d been blogging for several years at that point but I wasn’t getting much traffic.  The course was kind of a cheerleading session more than anything.  We all came up with log lines to fit our blog.  I had a lot of trouble with mine…I suppose because it felt too personal.

Then it was blog three times a week, and all the other writers would visit and comment.  Cheerleaders.

Yeah, well.

I was the first blog everyone dropped off from.  It was humiliating.  Was I really that bad?

(In hindsight, it was likely because I was trying not to post writing how-tos.)

But within about two months, all of them started dropping off their blogs.  They said blogging was interfering with their writing.  They were writing 2,000 word blog posts, revising them extensively….well, you can see how it self-destructed.  A lot of them have disappeared.  A few are still writing.

Since then, I’ve seen writers saying that writing a book is 90% market and 10% writing.  There ain’t a lot of writing going on with those numbers.

I like Joanna Penn’s idea of marketing much better—marketing should be such that you only have to do minimal work.  More time for writing.

Dean Wesley Smith on writing without an outline


This is a video of Dean Wesley Smith talking about writing without outlining or “writing into the dark.”  He details the process of cycling, which allows for clean copy and cuts revision.

My cycling process is  little different. I can bounce around in the story like a ping ball.  It’s sometimes the previous scene, and sometimes I might jump back to a connecting scene earlier in the book.  I’m somewhat messy when I write.  My creative likes to take all the toys out of the toy chest and toss them on the floor (sometimes in no particular order), then it wanders off and plays with a few and forgets about the others.  So stubs of things get into the story, and never get used.

At the point when I’m doing the climax, I can usually tell because my creative brain gets the sudden urge to cycle through the entire story from the beginning.  Then it’s pulling together everything…taking out those stubs that I completely forgot about and never used anywhere.  The stubs are kind of like flash in the pan ideas.  You know, things that sound exciting when I put them and then later, it has me scratching my head wondering what I expected to do with it.

In a way, cycling is a lot of fun because it keeps me reconnecting with the story!

 

 

BookBaby Marketing Conference (Part III)


On Sunday, Joanna Penn wrapped up the conference with a keynote address.  Sorry the photo is a bit blurry.

 

Joanna Penn on the podium

She talked about how deeply unhappy she was in her day job–she’d actually written her first book as a response to how unhappy she was.  Then, she went to a vanity press, got a bunch of copies…and well, you know how that turned out.  Though a vendor is trying to make money off that old book.  I saw it online for $200!

When she jumped in on the early days of epublishing, she also came up with a lot of different ways to make money that were related to the books.  She expected that she wouldn’t make money with the books for a while.  That was a very realistic way of viewing what she was doing.  Most writers seem to think their writing is so fantastic that everyone will flock to it and turn it into a best seller.

She also noted that marketing should be able to happen all the time even when you aren’t tending to it.  That goes to making smarter choices about marketing, rather than doing as I saw a writer say, “Writing books is 90% marketing and 10% writing).

Like going to Amazon and starting to type “How to” and seeing what those results are…and doing a book using those results.  She updated her first book and released it again under the title Career Change–because that was an Amazon search term.  It helped sales because it showed up first when people typed it in.

She also brought up consistency, which was a theme during the conference.  She was doing podcasts and got frustrated with the lack of success with them.  But then buckled down and started doing them consistently each week and then they gained popularity.  I think this is the hardest thing is just sticking to the schedule.

The conference was all very positive, and I’m glad I was able to hear Joanna speak.  It has been hard sometimes to connect books and blog posts to actual actions.

One of the first things I did after I got back from the conference was to set up an email newsletter, which you can find here.  It’ll start up on December 3.

 

Book Baby Marketing Conference (Part II)


The conference had perfect timing being early in November.  This week we had our first snowfall—usually we don’t see any snow until January and February.  I’m glad I wasn’t taking the train in that!

This was only half a day, but the panel below had a lot of notes:

The Jeopardy Approach: How to Find Thousands of True Fans

Short summary: Email newsletters.

From last year’s conference, I picked up one piece of advice on newsletters: Just because you’re overwhelmed by email doesn’t mean everyone else thinks the same.

This workshop was stepping off into the deep end.

What is marketing?

“Marketing is getting someone who has a need to know, like, and trust you.” – and buy books.

Email builds the relationship with the reader over time while they’re waiting for the next book to come out.  Consistency, of course, is key.  If people come to expect your emails, they’re more likely to read it.  If you fall off the schedule, the rest of the world fills it in…and when you send out another email again, they’ve forgotten that you’ve signed up and get annoyed. (This part is not from the workshop, but my thinking on it).

The basics

Be human

I think that’s the biggest problem when writers try to figure out how to market.  They don’t see any sales, so they go onto Twitter and start sending out tweets for “Buy my book.”  A writer friended me on Facebook.  I should have looked at what she was posting because her first three were “Buy my book.”  Spam makes the rest of the world think you’re a robot.

Be consistent

This is like a TV show…same time, same day.

Schedule it all in advance

Just plain time management 101. It’s hard to be consistent if you’re in constant reaction mode (not to mention stressful!).

Use monthly themes

This helps with coming up with ideas for the newsletter.  Themes can be focused around releases.  I’m going to do a digital organization in February and do a release of a book called Digital Minimalism: Reduce Clutter on Your Computer Now (there’s a specific reason for this month, but more about that when I go into Joanna Penn’s keynote speech in Part III).

Provide positive value

I think this one is really important.  When I have subscribed to writer newsletters, I end up just getting an announcement of the next book coming out.  Contrasting that to FundsForWriters, which has two short articles about writing and a list of markets, plus any new books coming out by the writer.

No rants!

I think this is pretty self-explanatory.  I personally would add no politics to that.  You can turn off a reader really fast with politics.

Recommended newsletter schedules

Five days a week

Which isn’t as scary as it sounds.  The proposal was about 100 words, or 3-4 sentences, just like a Facebook post.  Follow a topics schedule:

  • Monday – Inspiration
    Tuesday – How to
    Wednesday – Links (two, with a sentence about them)
    Thursday – longer question
    Friday – Podcast or video

Weekly

Explore this world—drama, humor, self-help, education.  I think it is tough for fiction writers though because it doesn’t have the same neat fit that a non-fiction book does.

Create a buzz

This newsletter is like a TV season, for example: Game of Thrones.  Do a story in email over three months and spend the rest of the year creating a buzz.

It’s interesting that nowhere on this list are the two most common mailings…once a month and when there’s a release.  In this fast moving world, those may be too little.

Based on this panel, I’m going to start an email newsletter December 1.  I’ll be doing the five days a week option.

Part III of this will be next Tuesday.

 

BookBaby Marketing Conference (Part I)


Last weekend, I attended the BookBaby Conference in Philadelphia.  BookBaby (yeah, I know.  That name…) is a company that does all the stuff that happens after you create the manuscript.  The conference was entirely focused on marketing books.

I went last year, too.  That was their first one. It was a little rough around their edges.  Most of the panels were from vendors and framed marketing from the perspective of non-fiction.  It’s a lot easier talking marketing for non-fiction than it is for fiction.  Almost all the advice I see on marketing assumes non-fiction, and fiction is a completely different animal.

But I still got enough out of it that I came back…especially when I saw the keynote speaker: Joanna Penn.

Philly is two hours out of DC, so I hopped a train out of Union Station.  The hotel was by the Delaware River.

View of the Delaware River from the waterfront.
The Delaware River

I don’t like the city much because it’s hard for me to eat.  I’m gluten free and dairy free, and the majority of the meals have some form of bread in everything.  If it’s not breaded and fried, it’s in a sauce.  I like travel and don’t like travel.  Food is always hard.

This conference had a more diverse group of speakers (still some who were vendors), but this time I felt more like it was speaking to the fiction writer.

Self-Publishing is Not a Backup Plan

Eva  Lesko Natiello gave this panel.  Highlights:

  1. The #1 thing is to get reviews.This came across over and over during all the sessions.  Amazon gives all new books a bump in the rankings for about 30 days to give it a chance to be noticed.  Reviews show activity and interest.She also said to put a request in for reviews at the back of the book.  I’ve seen traffic on this before.  Some say to do it, some say it makes you look desperate.  But I’m trying it anyway.  At this point, it’s not going to hurt.
  2. Use subtitles.
    This was an interesting one. The subtitles don’t go on the cover itself, but in the field on Amazon.  It might provide additional keywords and the genre.  She noted that a traditionally published writer got stuck with a cover that totally misrepresented the book and put it in a different genre than it was (it was women’s fiction; cover was young adult male).  The publisher refused to change the cover because of cost, so she suggested they add a subtitle to Amazon to clarify the genre.
  3. The Amazon Link
    When you copy and paste the link to your book from Amazon, they know it comes from you. All the sign-in info is in that link.  So you have delete everything after the ISBN number so that the link is clean.

Success Leaves Traces

This one sounded better than it actually was.  Highlights:

  1. Rise to the challenge
  2. Understand and practice the pain of discipline
  3. Combine persistence with perseverance
  4. Willing to learn from every possible source
  5. Embrace the partnership with editors and other publishing professionals.
  6. Know the power of information
  7. Know the importance of relationships
  8. Constantly search for the next opportunity to practice their craft

Typing it out from my notes, it’s a good list, and yet the session was somewhat unmemorable.  But a particular highlight is item #4.  There was a writer I absolutely loved when I first discovered her series.  Every time I visited B. Dalton, I looked on the shelf to see if she had anything new.  Every book she wrote got better.

Then she turned into a best seller and decided she didn’t need to learn anything new.  Her writing went downhill.  She still sold books, but I went from buying them in hardback to getting them at the library.  Then, eventually, only occasionally at the library because the books weren’t worth my time.  A few books ago, it looked like she was trying to recapture those early days (maybe sales have gone down?)—and she can’t.  The skills she had then are completely gone.

Book Marketing Masterclass

This was one of Joanna Penn’s sessions.  It stated right after lunch, so I came back half an hour early to make sure I got a seat.  I figured it would be full, and I was right!  We had people sitting on the floor.  She just did a post about the conference.

Joanna Penn on the podium
It’s hard to believe this is so far away. I was in the front row!

 

Highlights:

  1. Strategy is choosing what you want to do and more importantly, what you don’t want to do.
    Pretty much, if you hate doing something, you’re probably not going to be very successful at it.  This, of course, includes writing in a genre you don’t like.
  2. Long term marketing has to be autopilot
    Because we need to write!
  3. Put links everywhere.
    In the front of the book, in the back of the book, in your email signatures. I came back and uploaded the eBook for Cursed Planet with a updated bio to add more links.
    An email responder can also be used to add more value, providing a link to a podcast or an interview.
  4. Consistency
    This is another tip that came from multiple sessions. For blogs, post on a schedule and stick to it (which I haven’t always done).  She recommended doing content planning because otherwise it can really be hard to keep up (something else I’m going to think about).  I remember one writer from my old WANA group who waited until the last minute—when she needed to post—to come up with an idea for the post, write it, revise it a bunch of times, and then post.  She was complaining about how much time the posts took.
  5. Pinterest
    She mentioned that she was on Pinterest, because she loves pictures. She uses pictures to show some of her research for her books (it’s under the J.F. Penn name if you go looking for it).  I’m visual spatial and like pictures, but I’ve been so overwhelmed by my day job, something like Pinterest was too much.  Things have improved there, so I’ve created a folder for my current project, Last Stand.  https://www.pinterest.com/garridon/

That’s  just the first day.   Part II of this will be posted next Tuesday.

The Curse of Perfection


November marks NanoWrite, which is is when many writers try to write 50K in 30 days.  Nano, perhaps curiously, reminds me of the cooking competitions on Food Network.  They just finished up the Halloween Baking Championship and are about to start the Holiday Baking Championship.  There’s all the cake competitions too.

Particularly with the cake competitions, we sometimes get a cake decorator who proudly boasts up front that their standard is perfection.

Then they make contact with the timed challenge of the competition.

There’s no time to be perfect.

But some of them try to hang onto the perfection, and the time crunch pulls them apart.  They start making careless mistakes that put them behind.  Because they’re still focusing on perfection, they fall further and further behind, refusing to abandon part of piece that’s too complicated or try something else.

Others quickly toss out the perfection, but veer in another just as bad direction.  They go sloppy.  Their focus becomes laser focused on finishing, without regard to quality.

Suddenly they hear “One hour left” and it’s a mad rush to try to pull everything together.  Only it’s really too late to play catch up, and the piece either ends up a mess or on the floor.

Which sounds a lot like Nano.  The purpose is to drive out the perfectionist, because if you stop to perfect each sentence, you’ll never get 50K by the end of the month.   Yet, it’s hard for writers to let go of needing to be perfect and they end up not even getting close to their goals.  Or they write sloppy.   Imagine writing a story and leaving out all the punctuation.  Now imagine having to fix that during a revision.

Cringe.

Perfect is a curse, because it is anything but perfect.

 

Just in Time For Halloween: The Lottery


A thoroughly creepy story from The New Yorker, Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.  I read this when I was in school.  It’s one of the few stories that still has the same impact on me even as an adult.  It’s a masterwork of carefully chosen details that grow on you slowly, saying something is not quite right about this lottery.