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A good writing week

It’s been a pretty good week for me, writing-wise. For starters, I went ahead and submitted a story to dailysciencefiction.com a couple hours ago, thus fulfilling my wish to begin submitting stories again. I am practically certain the story will end up getting rejected, but I’m pleased with it nonetheless and I had a great time putting it together – which, as far as I’m concerned, is the most important thing.

Secondly, I already have a second short story in mind to write. And I already more-or-less know how it’ll go from beginning to end, which should help a lot once I start writing it.

Thirdly, I have finally – finally – started to plan out a brand new novel.

This is actually something I was planning to blog about a fair bit earlier: namely, the issue of actually picking a single novel-length writing project to commit to. After all, I did originally want to write novels, when I first got into writing – and I still do want to write novels, now. At the same time, though, I wanted to write in general – which is why I got started on writing short stories along with other bits and bobs, rather than waiting for ideas for a full novel to materialise.

Now, though, those ideas have materialised , and almost certainly as a result of the other writing I’ve been doing in the meantime. So now, I merely need to flesh those ideas out a whole lot. And then, y’know, actually write the thing.

Parasites are going to be involved in this new project, by the way. Because, well, of course they will.

Had any good writing-related times, lately? Feel free to share down below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What makes a story a success?

What makes a story a success?

That, paraphrased, is a question I stumbled across over on Twitter yesterday. It’s an interesting question, for sure – and very much a relevant one for any writers out there.

But what’s the answer? When a work makes money, perhaps? When it gets published? When a work gets published and makes money?

Certainly, getting published or making money both seem like good metrics for success…except there’s plenty of writing out there for which things just don’t apply. What about all the authors nowadays who self-publish, for whom traditional barriers to publication are no issue? What about all the writers who simply post their work online for free? And what about all the writing that, for whatever reason, never makes it to eyes beyond the author’s own?

J K Rowling is a highly successful writer; that goes without saying. She also wrote plenty of fiction before penning even the first word of Harry PotterNone of that fiction ever saw the light of day, due to being – in Rowling’s own words – “rubbish”. But would she have been ready write Harry Potter had she not written that other material first? And if the answer to that is “no”, could one not then argue that her earlier fiction was successful as well?

Let’s talk fan fiction for a moment. In particular, let’s talk Nightfall – a downright brilliant How to Train Your Dragon fic that I read several years ago. Naturally, the author never made a cent off of it, on the grounds that it was freaking fan fiction. And yet, plenty of people loved it, in part due to the author’s deft handling of non-human points of view. Furthermore, the author presumably gained a whole ton of experience that would aid them towards writing a truly original work…assuming, of course, that they actually wanted to. As far as I’m concerned, that’s pretty dang successful.

Really, I think a piece of writing is successful so long as its author – or indeed, anyone – thinks it is successful. Getting published and making money are both signs of writing success, to be sure – but they aren’t the only signs. Far from it, in fact.

When would you say that a piece of writing was successful? Feel free to give your thoughts down below!

November Book Recs

Time for my first book recommendations post! These are something I plan to run around once a month from now one, and the grounds for getting included on these posts will be pretty straightforward:

1. I have to have read the book in question within the last month or so.

2. I have to have finished the book.

3. I have to have liked the book.

With that said, let’s begin…

Crystal Singer, by Anne McCaffrey (Crystal Singer #1)

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Crystal Singer marks the first non-Pern book I’ve read from McCaffrey, and it proved to be quite the ride…at least, once it moved on from its relatively slow-paced beginning. The protagonist, Killashandra Ree, is a gifted vocalist who dreams of becoming a galaxy-trotting solo artist. When this dream comes crashing down, Killashandra promptly settles on a new one: to become one of the famed Crystal Singers, on whose work the wholeof civilisation now relies – and to become exceedingly wealthy as a result.

McCaffrey constructs a fascinating sci-fi world, along with an driven and ambitious female protagonist who I couldn’t help but to root for. This is very much worth reading, particularly if all you know of McCaffrey is her Dragonriders of Pern series.

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The Wizards of Once, by Cressida Cowell (The Wizards of Once #1)

I bought this due to enjoying Cowell’s How To Train Your Dragon series, and at no point was I disappointed with my purchase. Set in the British Isles, The Wizards of Once is tells the story a pair of enemy tribes, who continue to fight even as an unseen evil begins to lurk in the shadows. All of this is told through the eyes of two very engaging protagonists, certain traits of which will be familiar to those who followed the HTTYD books.

Great for kids…and great for adults, as well. Definitely recommended.

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, by Stephanie Burgis (Tales from the Chocolate Heart #1)

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An incredibly sweet book – no pun intended – about finding one’s passion in the face of adversity. Aventurine’s passion is chocolate – both eating it, and also making it. She discovers this passion in the most unlikely of ways: by being tricked into drinking an enchanted pot of chocolate, only to then be turned from a powerful dragon into a lowly squishy human. But with no status to her name, can she really convince one of the famed Chocolate Houses to take her in as an apprentice?

Wonderfully written, with a brilliant protagonist along with a great cast of side characters, this is another book that I reckon would entertain readers of almost any age. Well worth a read…and the sequel is out now, too!

Got any book recommendations of your own? Feel free to comment down below!

Tweet, tweet…

As well as getting back into WordPress, I’ve been getting into Twitter over the past few weeks. I’ve actually had a Twitter account for years, but I rarely actually made any use of it. Really, I just didn’t see the point: I had a Facebook account already, as well as this WordPress blog, so why would I possibly need ANOTHER social media outlet?

Well, I certainly don’t need Twitter – but at this point, I can definitely see why Twitter could be helpful.

The rate at which information flows on Twitter is just unreal; it goes by way faster than on WordPress or even on Facebook. I’m not sure how Tumblr or Instagram compare – I’ve not spent much time on either of those – but I can’t imagine them being much faster.

And as a writer and reader, this flow of information is proving to be REALLY useful. In no particular order: I’ve found a few potential short story outlets, heard of an upcoming MasterClass by none other than Neil Gaiman, and discovered several great-sounding books to buy and read. I finished one of those books only a couple days ago; said book was The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart, by Stephanie Burgis, which I utterly adored from start to finish. Another one of those books is 52 Stories in 52 Weeks, a short story collection, which I am reading right now.

Oh, and I’ve been reminded by a bot that there is in fact a capital “P” in “WordPress”. So there’s that.

Of course, the rapid movement of information has disadvantages in the larger scheme of things – mostly when that information stops being accurate. Browsing around certain hashtags was like entering some sort of twisted parallel reality, and I can readily imagine such hashtags producing some seriously warped world-views – a problem which, of course, has been being heavily discussed for some time now.

Still: purely as a writer, Twitter seems useful, and I look forward to exploring Twitter further. I also plan to hook up my Twitter and WordPress accounts in the near future, since there seems little point now in keeping them separate.

Do you like using Twitter? Or else loath Twitter, for whatever reason? Feel free to comment down below!

 

To Rejection, And Beyond!

This week, I’ve been spending the bulk of my writing time on planning out and writing short stories – to little success, truth be told. As it turns out, writing short stories is hard – particularly when you’ve been out of this whole game for a while. I ended up spending a lot of time simply trying and failing to come up with good ideas, as opposed to actually writing prose. And the prose I did write this week was…not great.

Still, I’ve got to start somewhere, and I have indeed now started. And I expect my short story sessions will get more successful, so long as I just keep them – which I plan to do. Because the thing about short stories is that they are, well, short – which means a given short story takes far less time to write and revise than a full novel would take.

And once the writing and revising (and re-revising) is done. I’ll be ready to do the thing I really want to try doing again: to actually go ahead and submit something.

And after that, I want to receive the inevitable rejection notice, however many weeks later.

Following this, I want to try writing and revising and submitting some more things. And then, assuming I get that far, I shall look forward to experiencing what pretty much every serious writer ends up experiencing: a rejection letter, followed by another rejection letter, followed by…well, you get the idea.

I do have one rejection letter to hand already, as a matter of fact. That was for a story I submitted to dailysciencefiction.com several years ago, which at the time I viewed as a pretty major milestone. With hindsight, I really should have should have revised the story more before I tried sending it anywhere; I also reckon I should have sought out feedback on the story from readers, whereas in actual fact I only did that after I’d already sent the story off. Still, I learned a good number of lessons from that story – and I could always try sending it somewhere else at some point in the future.

At this point,  it would be daft of me to expect something I’ve written to actually be accepted: as far as I’m concerned, I’m simply too inexperienced, and having barely written any fiction in three years has certainly not helped matters there. The obvious solution, in my mind, is to become more experienced – which means writing…and revising…and submitting…and a whole lotta rejection notices into my inbox.

Any writers here received rejections lately? Or better yet, received acceptances? Feel free to comment down below!

On NaNoWriMo

So, it is now November. And that means, National Novel Writing Month, AKA NaNoWriMo, is officially underway. Even as I write this, plenty of writers will be busily working towards their target of 50,000 words; many, I’m sure, will use up large chunks of their free time to do so.

I’ve tried NaNoWriMo exactly once before now. I was quite a bit younger at that point, and I hadn’t been in the habit of writing regularly beforehand; as such, it is probably not surprising that my NaNoWriMo attempt crashed and burned horribly. As I recall, I stayed on pace for a grand total of three days before falling irreparably behind; within a week, I had given up totally.

At this point, I think I probably could pull off NaNoWriMo if I put my mind to it. Certainly, I write fast enough at this point: 3 of the “sprint” sessions I mentioned last week would be all I needed to stay on pace each day, given how many words they typically produce. I also have multiple ideas for novels sitting on my computer, so I reckon I could easily pick one and run with it if I really wanted to. The result would likely be barely readable, sure – but the whole point of NaNoWriMo is to fix that sort of thing after the month is over.

With all that said, I’ve decided I will not be attempting NaNoWriMo this year.

The way I see it, writing for me at this point should be fun. I’ve only just gotten back into it, and I’m enjoying having gotten back into it…but I doubt I would stay “into it” if I did not keep enjoying it. After all, if I didn’t enjoy it, then what would be the point in doing it at all?

Trying for 50k words in one month, however, strikes me as…less than enjoyable – particularly so soon after having started up again. Trying for that amount of words almost sounds like work, in fact – which, for something that is NOT in fact meant to be my job, is probably not a good thing.

And so, I’m going to approach November in a little more relaxed way. I’m going to make sure I write every day, certainly, and I’m going to make sure I read every day (since reading, of course, is an important part of being a writer). What I am not going to do, though, is work towards any specific target word-count.  If I do end up producing a large amount of words this month, then that’s just great – but I’m not going to specifically aim for such.

And perhaps next year, once I’ve been back in this game for far longer, I’ll decide to try going all the way.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Or have you specifically chosen to not do it, like I have? Feel free to comment down below!

The Joys Of Sprinting

Something I’ve been looking into over the past few weeks is the issue of making time for myself to write. After all, writers write, and I can hardly say that I’m getting back into writing if I do not in fact write on a regular basis.

In practice, this means that I’ve largely been working on solving the following problem: how to write on a regular basis while keeping up with what, if I do say so myself, is a reasonably demanding day job.

Now, in some ways, my “day job” as a researcher is perfect for a writer: there tends to be a lot of flexibility with regards to working hours, so long as I do put the hours in and do in fact get my work done. That’s certainly way more freedom that most people my age get, and dear lord am I grateful for that. Plus, I do like said job a whole lot, which means I seldom leave my office in a bad mood.

That said, my job does one major drawback from a writing standpoint: namely, it involves a lot writing in itself, as well as plenty of screen-staring. The result is that my brain typically turns to slime if I try to write for a prolonged period of time after a day in the office. At the same time, it means I can’t get up early and write for a prolonged period before work, either, lest I end up soiling my productivity when working on the stuff that, y’know, I’m actually getting paid to work on.

And so, for quite some time now, I’ve generally just been writing a few hundred words before getting into my science and then calling it a day on the writing front – a massive improvement over not writing at all, certainty, but also not really where I want to be further down the line.

Last week, I finally hit upon a solution that seems to work for me: do a little bit of writing before work, and a little bit of writing at home immediately after work – and time them both, religiously.

In other words, a set of good old fashioned writing sprints.

This is actually a technique I was aware of well before I last stopped writing, but as far as I recall I never actually tried it for myself at the time. This time though, faced with the desire to produce more words without simply magic-ing more time out of thin air, I figured it was worth a go.

And the early indications are…yes, it was indeed worth a go.

There’s something about being on the clock that seems to make me way faster than when I write otherwise. That’s not to say my writing is any better, but it does mean I actually get words out onto the page at a good rate – words which can then be revised and edited until they’re way better than a first draft could ever achieve.

So far, I’ve ran all my “sprints” in 25-minute or 30-minute segments. And generally, I’ve ended up managing around 500 words in that time – quite a bit improvement in speed compared to before. So, were I to consistently manage 2 or three over the course of a day…well, that’ll be a whole lot of words, right there.

That said, it’s still early days for this approach, so it remains to be seen whether I end up adopting it over a longer period. So far though, it’s working very nicely – which means, for now at least, I consider the problem of making writing time to be solved.

This particular post was written during a “sprint”, incidentally, after I realised I was about to hit the end of the week without actually having written anything for the blog. As I write this, I have two minutes left out of a twenty-five minute session, and I’ve been editing as I go. This, I hope, is not something I’ll do every week – but again, it’s helped to keep me writing and to keep my posts here on schedule, so it’s certainly something I’m glad to have tried.

And now, there are only 30 seconds remaining, so I think I’ll call it quits on this post here. Anyone else use “sprints” as a way to get the words flowing? Feel free to comment down below!

(Funnily enough, my timer ran out and started beeping at me pretty much as soon as I finished those two bold sentences. I did go back and edit a few bits of the post afterwards, mind)