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A Finished Product, Sort Of

February 22, 2010 Comments off

It was a productive weekend, on the writing front, and I’ve finished a draft of my short story. I am not pleased with it yet – it is over-written, too long, and it lacks a center – so there is much yet to be done. In a perfect world, I would let it rest for a week or two, then return to it with a fresh pair of eyes for a heavy re-write. That can’t be the case, though, since the deadline for the journal submission is March one. I’ll need to keep plugging away and rely on the trusted criticism of my wife and friend to get this thing into a submit-able form.

It does feel good, though, to have a completed work. I sat down two weeks ago with an idea and a character, and a story grew from there. There were days when I knew that the direction was off, or that the writing was less than stellar. On those days I almost just scrapped the whole piece and went back to the novel. But I stuck with it and forced myself to finish for finshing’s sake.

I ended up with a 20-page story, and a fully resolved little plot. It is not great – maybe not even good – but I have something to work with.  Even if the piece I submit to the journal next week is not what I want it to be, I’ll still have a story that I can come back to at some later date to continue revising and polishing.

Today, I hope to take out 10% – 15% of the words. I need to re-work the opening to make sure that it more fully sets the emotional state of the narrator, and I need to weed out the elements that don’t lead to the conclusion the story found. That should fill an hour easily.

It will be the first day of this experiment that I spend editing. As an English teacher I edit constantly, so I I’m hoping that I’m good at this.

We’ll see.

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Plan of Attack

February 8, 2010 1 comment

I’m fast realizing that updating this blog daily is not going to be feasible – especially on the weekends when it seems the days disappear before I have time to get even a few words down. I’ll update frequently though, dear reader, and promise to keep plugging away on my 60 minutes a day with or without a post (I know that you are tremendously concerned that I will not).

The last few days have been rough on the writing front. The hurdle: a submission deadline that I thought was not until March 31 is actually on March 1, so I have about two weeks to get a short story all prepped. The outline for that story is set, and the characters are established in my mind, but the actual writing is only just getting underway. I need about 2,000 words to meet the journal’s requirements.

I’ve put the novel on hold until I get this short piece done, then. It’s not an ideal situation. I wanted to finish the first two chapters before I set the novel aside for a rest, thinking that the story and characters needed to blossom a bit before I left them for something else. I don’t want to lose the impetus on the novel, because I have faith that it can be a publishable piece. But if I’m honest with myself I realize that the novel has been in my head for at least three years, and a two week hiatus is not going to do any irreparable harm to my ability to tell the story.

The challenge of the short story is that it is for a far different reader than my YA novel. I am attempting to develop a more mature voice for this submission, and have found that in doing so I’m over thinking the whole process. I am getting bogged down and am feeling the story stall.

I’ve resolved to stop all hemming and hawing on the artistry of the piece for now and get the plot out and the characters developed. After I put this post up, I’m going back to the story and will put in another solid 30-60 minutes to try to get up to 1,000 words or so before bed. Using the outline as a guide, I think that’s an achievable target. The short term plan is to have the story done by Friday in (very) rough draft form. I’ll polish it for a week and send it on its way. I’m sure I won’t feel that the story got its due once the envelope is mailed, but at least I’ll have completed the whole drafting/revising/re-drafting/editing/submitting process.

On a side note, my wife has been plucking white hairs out of my head for the last 6 days. I’m 31. This is a frightful development. I’m not ready to blame the writing, though. The white hair probably got much more to do with the MSU basketball team.

Right?

525,600

January 26, 2010 3 comments

I saw “Rent” too many years ago, but I can still remember the first time I heard the song “Seasons of Love.” It’s a great song, if a little thick on the Broadway schmaltz. I like it best because, thanks to its lyrics, I now always know exactly how many minutes are in a year.

That matters to me today, because I’m starting a bit of an intimidating journey. It’s a journey that I’ve been planning for a few months, that I should have started long ago. It will be lonely and painful and unheralded. It might not be rewarding. It won’t be lucrative. It will be worth it.

I hope.

The journey will take exactly 525,600 minutes. It starts in the dark, in the back office of a journalism classroom in central Michigan, a week after the biggest snowstorm in decades. I hope that it will continue on into a dark warehouse in Sarnia, Ontario; a farmer’s market in Lansing, Michigan; a ferry-boat in Genoa, Italy.

The plan is simple: I will write every day for one hour. I will blog about the experience here. I will try to get published, but I will focus on the craft – not the business.

I started today. I found an empty computer lab on the second floor of DeWitt High School, I turned off my cell phone, I set an on-line stopwatch to count down from 1:00:00, and I wrote. The results: 764 words, 2.5 pages, and the prologue to a novel that has been in my head for three years.

I was excited for today. I wanted to be able to call myself a writer. I wanted to see if I had what it takes to get all these thoughts on the page. I do. Or, at least, I did today. The excitement melted, turned to nervousness as the computer booted up, boiled into a flurry of words, and has reduced down to a simmering apprehension now. What will I think tomorrow when I look back at what I wrote? What if my great idea is crap on the page? What if all the planning and excitement is emptiness? Why do I sound like a self-loathing, angst-ridden beatnik when I’m only 85 minutes into this process?

Those are rookie fears on opening day, and I need to get past them. I wouldn’t have started this process if I didn’t think it would be a valuable addition to my life.

Besides, I’ve read the first half of “Twilight.” I’ve seen five adverbs in one sentence of a best seller. If that can get published, then so can I.

I have 525,515 minutes to make it happen.