How do you keep from getting distracted?

One of the classes I was scheduled to teach at the community college this term is called social media for writers. As it happens, not enough people signed up for it, and I’ll admit, I was a kind of relieved, because I would have felt a little bit like a fraud.

I deleted my Pinterest account at the start of the year; I shut down my personal Facebook profile for three or four weeks in January/February before turning it back on, but have been waffling about it ever since. This doesn’t make me sound like the sort of writer who should be teaching people how to use social media, does it?

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For Your Own Good

In submission mode? Check out The Masters Review 2016 literary calendar. Covers January through June and is pretty damn awesome.

Also awesome is this review of my wonderful friend Leah Horlick’s second poetry collection, For Your Own Good.

Recently I was talking with a friend about the difference between artists and everyone else. It really might be their brains, according to this study.

If you don’t have the time or the money to travel to a writing workshop, Sarah Selecky has suggestions on going DIY.

And speaking of suggestions, if you’re not reading Neil Gaiman’s Tumblr blog, you’re missing out on a lot of his fantastic advice.

"So How’s That Book Coming Along, Jeff?"

I’m glad you asked!

At the moment, I’m on Chapter 14 of the sequel to The Unwanted (working title is Prophecy Boy), and I’ve outlined it to be 18 chapters long. So, I’m more than 75 percent done. This is a good thing, I think. I’m writing this post on Friday, and I’m hoping to finish Chapter 14 by the end of the day, so when this goes live on Monday I’ll hopefully be well on my way to finishing Chapter 15.

I’ve mentioned it in passing before, but I’m just going to put it out here right now: first draft done by April 1. That gives me about a month and a half to finish it. If I wrote one chapter a week, I’d be able to hit that deadline with time to spare. Then, after a break to attend the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans, it’d be time to revise.

Now the revision, that’s going to be a bit of a challenge. “Why?” you ask. I’m glad you asked! Continue reading “"So How’s That Book Coming Along, Jeff?"”

Stories to listen to, stories to play, and stories to read

I’ve started teaching an introduction to writing the short story class at the community college, so lately stories have been on my mind—and on my screen, because there are just so many outlets for reading stories available online. One that I stumbled across recently is a website called Cast of Wonders, a young adult fiction podcast. For starters, check out one of their staff favorites, “Now Cydonia.” And since they’re podcasts, you can listen to them while folding the laundry, which is totally what I did.

One of my friends recently said he’d like to see me write a video game because he thinks I’d be good at it. I don’t know about that—I think I’d have to play more of them for starters—but I do know that I’m looking forward to this game: 18 quintillion planets in one video game, just waiting to be explored. (I think I need to get a PlayStation.)

My friend Jeff Howe has a story coming up in One Teen Story, “Making the Cut.” He talks about it here.

Lastly, this one’s not a short story, but it sums up how I feel on a lot of days. If you ever feel like you’re falling behind in life, maybe you’re right where you’re supposed to be, and no 15-point listicle will rush the process. That doesn’t mean you have to sit there passively and do nothing, but sometimes it can’t hurt to trust the process.

When it comes to editing: If in doubt, cut it

I’ve been sending out a lot of submissions to magazines lately. One of my targets last year was a submission a month. This year, I’m aiming for a submission a week. Usually, I’ll send the same story simultaneously to two or three magazines that I think would be good fits. (Almost all magazines are willing to consider simultaneous submissions; they’re realistic about their turnaround times and know that writers can’t sit on a story for three to six months waiting to hear back from one magazine.) When a story gets rejected, my usual practice is to send it out again within twenty-four hours. One of my friends a long time ago likened it to an aircraft carrier’s wing: you’ve got to get your planes in the air.

Continue reading “When it comes to editing: If in doubt, cut it”

Friday Reads, or "Project Read My Own Damn Books"—Ella Minnow Pea

So far this year I’ve finished reading five books. I’m pretty pleased with that. I also know I can’t possibly keep up that pace. I’m teaching a class starting next Tuesday, I want to finish my work-in-progress by April 1, and I will need to try to pick up more freelance work in the next couple months if I’m not going to completely deplete my savings. (And I haven’t done my taxes yet. Oy.)

But! Moving on. I’m currently reading three books:

  • My Antonia by Willa Cather
  • You Should Pity Us Instead by Amy Gustine
  • THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT by Alexander Chee

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Just show up

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they go by.”
–Douglas Adams

photo by  Sonja Langford, Unsplash
photo by Sonja Langford, Unsplash

Sorry, Douglas. You may be one of my favorite writers, but I’m going to have to disagree with you here. Sort of.

I love deadlines, too. I love hitting them, that is. Deadlines keep me honest. They force me to produce even when I’d much rather do something else. Basically, they force me to show up.

I set myself a number of deadlines because I know otherwise I wouldn’t accomplish as much as I want to. Because they’re self-imposed, I’m not really accountable to anyone other than myself. If I don’t send an e-mail or I don’t post to my blog on a regular basis, sure some readers may notice, but it’s doubtful. So maybe I skip a day or a week, and the world doesn’t end.

I’m not writing my next novel to a contract or a deadline either, so if I don’t hit my goal of having a first draft completed by April 1, no one’s going to be tapping their foot wondering where it is or why it’s not done. I could finish the novel in April or May or June and no one would be any the wiser that I’d let that deadline go whooshing by.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

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