A Look Back at my Year in Writing–2014

Wrapping things up here on 2014. So, I wanted to look back at my year in writing and talk a little about what I accomplished and maybe a bit about what I didn’t. Next week, we’ll look forward to 2015. But this post is about the year that was. Here are the highlights one-by-one.


1. I saw my name in print for the first time.  Never_Look_Back
If I had to single out one highlight of my writing year, it would be seeing my novelette, The Ghul of Yazd published in Strangelet Journal. It was so great to see this story get accepted and finally see my name in print on, you know, an actual page of paper. And I almost fell off my chair when the editor asked me to put footnotes back into the story, thus preserving my original vision for the story.

It was doubly nice to hand a copy of the magazine to my parents as a Christmas gift this past week.

I also enjoyed the protagonist, Yusuf, in this story so much I wouldn’t mind visiting him again sometime by writing another story with him in it. I miss him.

2. I got a response to a query letter for the first time.
I finished writing my comedy-horror novella (AFTA) and got an editor interested enough to respond to my query letter. It’s too early to see if it gets picked up, but, hey, it was still fun to have another “First” even if the editor ultimately decides to pass on the manuscript.

3. I attended my first Con.
This was a resolution of mine last year and I stuck to it. This April, I attended my first Con (convention), RavenCon, and it was great. I learned a lot about writing, but I also learned a great deal about the publishing business and what editors look for—thanks to my fellow fiction-writer attendees and a handful of editors from Tor. If you’re a speculative fiction writer and you haven’t done this yet—get thee to a Con! You won’t regret it.

And, FYI, I will attend RavenCon again this year, so hope to see you there.

4. I finished a novella and two short stories.
It’s tough to fit writing into the daily grind, you know? But somehow I was able to finish a novella  (completely) and two short stories (almost).  A short synopsis of all three is now on my “Works in Progress” page. That’s not bad output, considering I have a full-time job that isn’t writing fiction.

(Truth be told, I still have to wrap that 2nd short story, but I should have that done in short order.)

5. I kept the blog  going.
It was no easy task, but I managed to write something for this blog at least every 2 weeks. Toward the end of the year, I was able to post something every week.

6. I said I would write short stories and I stuck to it.
As I said in my writing resolutions last year, I wanted to write “short or long,”that is, to write short stories or novels. Well, I did. I’ve written two short stories so far and I’m planning more to come in 2015. Who knows? I might even work on a novel next year.

7. Reading was the weak link.
Talk about not having time. After the day job, writing fiction and keeping up the blog, there isn’t a lot of time left. I resolved to read all sorts of things this past year, but it didn’t happen. That’s the way it is. I’m not going to loose any sleep over it, especially since I kept the fiction writing rolling

8. I kept submitting stories.
I’m proud of this last one. This is tough. You write your heart out, you take care of a piece. You write a solid first draft. Do the major polishing lift in 2nd draft. You polish some more in the third and/or fourth draft. Then, you proof it. And maybe somewhere in between, you workshop the piece. Finally, you research markets to find a place it might fit.

And then, in a sense, comes the hardest part of all: sending it to some unknown editor to see if they like it. Man, that’s never easy. But I’ve gotten to the point where I just go automatic. I say to myself, “this is a good piece” and I bring up my Gmail and press “Send.” It’s never easy, but after about 25 rejections, it’s becoming much more fluid. It’s a small but very significant milestone and I feel this year I’ve come to accept submission as a natural, integral part of the writing process. It wasn’t easy. 


Alright, see you next time when I’ll break down what I want to do in 2015 in writing. That should be a fun one.

,DJ

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Works in Progress—A Bite on the Line

An update on my works in progress.


AFTA—An editor wrote back in response to a query letter I sent, saying he would like to see the full manuscript of this comedy-horror novella. That’s the first time I’ve Fishinghad a positive response to a query letter. Ever. That’s good because there is a lot of advice out there on how to write a good query letter and I’m not sure I had exactly rang the bell with this one. The fact that at least one editor’s interest was piqued is a good sign.

Now all I have to do is wait. I’ll let you know what happens.

TMWSE—Last time I updated you guys, I had finished a first draft of this horror story. I was sick last week, so I just did some prewriting on my writing Sunday, instead of finishing off the 2nd draft. I didn’t want to do serious work without being at my best. The good news is that I’m about 2/3 done with the 2nd draft, counting my work over the previous week as well.

The upshot? I should have this done soon—taking into account a little break for the Holidays—and then it’s off to my four Beta readers. I’ll give them a chance to get back to me and then head into the 3rd (usually final) draft. I will do a reveal of the title of this short story when I send it off to the Beta readers.

Breakpoint—Status quo here: three rejections so far and it’s still with the same magazine. No word from them yet. It’s getting a bit above the average response time for this particular magazine according to Duotrope. I’m hoping the magazine’s staff is just taking the Holidays off and will dive back into the slush pile come the new year. They have a 90-day limit before sending a query and I’m nowhere near that. So, time to wait and see…


Stay tuned. In the coming weeks I will have a look back at my 2014 in writing and a look forward to what I’d like to do in 2015.

See you next time,

Darius

The Craft: The Ends of Analysis

[This is part of a continuing series on the art of writing fiction.]

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about the craft of writing fiction. About my five top rules for writing from “Get Black on White” and “NO CRITIC” to “Stick to What Works.” I’ve talked about “Grip,” about making your characters endure often painful conflict andDemotivational Death Star metamorphosis and about writing what you love. But there’s a limit to what you can figure out about writing. What you can, alas, put into words. Some things in writing, you just have to let be, without explanation. I’ve felt this especially keenly lately. I feel I’ve learned a tremendous amount about writing fiction this year, especially about writing short stories. But I feel most of it is incommunicable. These things are hard to characterize, but they’re things like:

  • Knowing you’re coming up against a word limit and writing to it. You just sense the story needs ending and you condense action to hit that limit.
  • Writing a section of dialogue and just KNOWING it’s not right for that character or situation. And then deleting it.
  • Getting a feeling that a story is getting off track. And then stopping. And putting it on the shelf for awhile or deleting the chapter(s) and starting over.
  • Smiling when you know that a certain character’s turn-of-phrase or unspoken action is just spot on.

There are a million other things like that in writing. Times when I just feel like the right approach could be something different, something intuitive that I’ve missed, that just needs to be included. This usually happens when I’m caught up in a story, just floating down the surface of it, like some great river.  I’m dodging all the rocks and whirlpools and just gunning down the chute to the end of the run. In such situations you can’t—or don’t—think. At moments like that the kayaker is completely immersed in the moment and making decisions naturally without the filter of rational thought breaking in.

It’s the same thing with writing. When the day’s going well, I’m making the decisions without thinking as I go. It’s only when my concentration is broken through—usually by a loud noise or some particularly clunky writing—that I fall out of the trance and start THINKING again. And thinking like that can ruin an entire day of great writing. So where am I going with this? What am I trying to say? That I learned a lot this year and I’m not sharing any of it? No. I would if I could. But this is beyond teaching and beyond knowing. It’s the pruning back of a jarring, clunky metaphor, it’s reining in some dialogue that got too long winded, it’s throwing the right detail in (even just the turn of a hand or a sigh) at the right moment, or ending a scene at just the right moment. Those things which, in the end, are the essence of Craft.

So, what to do, fellow writers? Despair? Fret? Give up? No. No. Never. Rather, persist. Pick up the pen again and take it to the blank page once more. For if I can not communicate what it is that will one day make you a master craftsman, I can assure you this: if you persist and if you have some God-given talent, you will win the contest. Experience alone must be your teacher. It may not be 5,000 words that gets you there. Or 50,000 or 100,000 or more. But if you keep going, persist, and write day-after-day, the Craft will come to you. You, too, will float along the river, gliding by, making decisions on the fly as everyone watches from the banks. And you will learn when the time is right for a character to be silent rather than speak, to act resolutely but too late, to have someone say it all with a half-seen, insignificant gesture.

All these things will come, but they require two things: talent and hard work. I wish I could say there was another path, but there never has been and never will be. That said, I hope I see you there, a little further down the road. I’ll be there, plodding along.

Good luck! And happy writing,

Darius

Works in Progress—Getting It Done

An update on my works in progress.


TMWSE—Well, finally knocked this one off. It was about 5,000 words two weeks ago. Now, it’s 7,500 words and the first draft is done. This makes it a perfect length for submittal to magazine markets. But I think it could be trimmed down a bit. You know, hit the gym and shed some pounds so that it’s fighting fit. So, this weekend, I’m going to edit this one and get it on its way to a The Endfinished 2nd draft.

I’m especially happy with the richness of the protagonist in this piece. He’s my favorite protagonist since Yusuf in The Ghul of Yazd and has some characteristics in common with him—most clearly his stubbornness and intellect. But otherwise, he’s quite different.

And, as always, it’s a big thrill to get to to the end of a new manuscript and type the words:

###

THE END

Breakpoint—Three rejections for this short story so far and it’s still with the same magazine. No word from them yet.

AFTA—This manuscript (a comedy-horror novella) is still with several publishing houses and I’m waiting to hear back from them.


That’s all for now. I’m off to relax for a bit and then hit the writing/editing on Sunday.

,Darius