Tag Archives: Online Writing

Reviving the barely living blog.

West Hall, Valdosta State University

West Hall, Valdosta State University (Photo credit: jadjadjad)

In a couple more months it will have been almost a year since I have written a blog. In the interim, however, not all of my writing has gone half so wrong. And much has happened, although not all of it is of note.  But before I get into everything else, allow me to apologize for my absence. I had to sink myself wholly into my graduate studies, and if I didn’t I may not have continued. I seem to be slightly obsessive compulsive when it comes to doing one thing. I can do that one thing fully and completely, but then everything else falls by the wayside. While it may not be o/c, this is not the first time I’ve noticed this tendency in myself. I hope that when I have a full-time librarianship, and hopefully more time, it means I’ll throw myself into my writing with abandon.

And here’s the important news, I’m just about half-way through my graduate studies. When I first started in the MLIS program, I had no idea what APA, let alone how to use it. I’d never taken a fully online class. And to be honest, I felt like I was drowning. I’m quite afraid if I hadn’t given up everything, for a little while at least, I was going to fail. I very nearly did barely scraping the two “B”s that I needed to continue my studies. Since then, my grades have gotten better. I can at least understand APA, even if I am still wrestling with how to arrange my time in fully online classes.

As things with my online classes have gotten better, my writing has improved. I have a new best friend: Google Drive. Yep. I save almost everything in Google now. From ideas, to bits of inspiration, to excerpts from stories, and full short stories. The only thing not on there, my novels. Google Drive is the most accessible, travel-ready storage in the universe beyond the human brain. And for some reason, my brain can’t always keep what I “write” in my head especially when I’m awake. Gradually, as I’ve become more accustomed to my studies, new home (almost one year here), and job, I’ve been able to “find” more time for writing. Something for which I’ve been grateful as life without writing is a drag.

But it also seems that my interest has shifted from fantasy towards speculative and science fiction. My husband says I’ve been watching too many movies, he made that comment an hour ago when I told him of my dream that I had to write down before I forgot. But the most recent movie I’ve seen in the theater is Les Miserables, and the most recent at home is Brave. In fact, I haven’t watched a science fiction movie since…I’m not really sure as I don’t watch many movies anymore. Even my TV watching is more geared toward fantasy and/or contemporary fiction rather than science fiction (Once Upon A Time, Monk, and a few oldies that I grew up with thanks to Netflix).

I now have a new project. Thanks to my acid dreams that I’ve come to welcome as inspiration. My most recent short stories have all been inspired by dreams. I have one complete short story, roughly 5K words, that was started at the end of January. I finished it a few days ago is about humans becoming the abducting aliens causing terror among other beings. That was quite fun to write. But now that I have wasted enough time babbling to everyone who will listen, perhaps I will spend my next hour or so before sunrise to start hashing out last night’s dream into a real story.

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Defining What You Write

Бородатая змея

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I was thinking about how to define what you write. Or how you decide what you want to write. I’m having a hard time deciding what genre I should submit my manuscript to when it’s finished. I’m about 2/3 of the way through the novel and I have, as yet, no idea where it should go.  I know what it isn’t, but I’m not sure what it is. There is some romance in the novel, but not a lot. There are some fantastical elements but it’s set in “the real world” for the majority of the novel, but some scenes are in…alternate realitites. But there are also some quasi-religious overtones that may throw some people off, although it’s far from religious fiction as well. Also, my main character is young, but not really young enough to label it “YA” at least in my own standards of YA.

At first, I was leaning towards paranormal, until another aspiring writer reminded me of the connotations of paranormal to romance these days. I know that it isn’t horror, romance, or science fiction. It’s definitely not autobiographical in any shape of that category, but I’m still at a loss as to where I’d place my novel.

 I suppose Fantasy would do, but that label doesn’t leave me satisified, more than likely it’s the lack of a real magic system that leaves me unsatisfied. There are three kinds of “paranormal” creatures, if you will, in this novel, and there are some fantastical beasts, although they are merely glimpsed. However, there’s no magic, wizards, dragons and the like and without those it just doesn’t ring “Fantasy” to me. I keep leaning paranormal, but there’s that stigma, as one friend once put it, of being a “bodice ripper.” Which doesn’t really apply to my novel. It could, if I had the mind to make it more concerned with the relationship, but the main thing about the relationship in this novel is that it doesn’t exist. And when it does, it still doesn’t, if that makes any sense.

So now, I’m 2/3 of the way through the novel and I still don’t have any idea who the intended audience is. I somehow feel that that puts me a bit behind. I’ve read about defining genre, and I suppose my novel is one of those that kind of mixes them a bit. It’s loosely based on religious mythology (not to be confused with religious teachings). In addition it has the elements of fantasy/paranormal. There’s a bit of SF (depending on the definition used) but mostly it’s paranormal. And I hate the unfair association of paranormal and romance. (I know I’ve said it before but I could rant for days on that association, besides being unfair, it’s also a bit stupid in my opinion).

I took my love of the supernatural and religion and fantasy and mashed it all up into one novel (hopefully it’ll become a series). The idea first came to me while I was taking a religious studies course which gave me the idea for the main paranormal creature.  I’m even in the progress of writing the inception of the story. I’d say prequel…but I’m really talking about the dawn of my paranormal creatures, and I don’t intend to write about them in any particular order of time. My first novel, hopefully, will take place in present day. But some of my ideas take me back through history and natural disasters.

How do you define what you write? Do you start with a goal of writing for a specific audience? Or is it that you found something new and interesting and you wanted to write about it?

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Staying true to yourself

Monday was my birthday. And it occurred to me that there were things that I was doing that wasn’t being true to myself. I was doing something, for money, that I knew to be blatantly false, and I could not bring myself to agree with what I was doing. So, after another session of doing what I knew to be wrong, I gave myself a birthday present. I put my foot down and refused to do anymore.

I felt wonderfully free. Don’t get me wrong. I am looking for a “day job.” I just could not longer do what I was doing. I came to terms with the fact that if I’m not being true to myself and what I believe to be right, I’m not going to be happy. And doing what I was doing, just because I’m in desperate need of money, was depressing me more than being jobless.

As I was pondering that, I realized that staying true to myself constitutes more than preventing the spread of lies. It’s also about standing up for what I want to do with my life. I want to write. But, like other aspiring writers out there, I don’t necessarily want to just write. Without a job, without a time limit, so-to-speak, I am not able to write. I want a day job. One that will give me enough leeway to write to my heart’s content.

This got me wondering, if I want to have a life, have a day job, and still be able to write, then maybe I need to be looking at a different kind of job. One that’s more…flexible than a full-time, 40+ hours a week, salary with benefits kind of job. Granted, I kind of need benefits like health care. But, what if I went with a part-time, nor more than 40 hours a week making squat for money kind of job without benefits.

I need a job for several reasons. Perhaps, though, I’ve been looking for the wrong kind of job. Maybe I need the part-time job to be happy rather than the full-time job. I want to be able to have a life, and write and work. Perhaps even go back to school for my masters. How am I going to manage all of that working full-time? I’m not entirely sure I could manage that. Working part-time will give me the ability to pay for my classes without further loans (hopefully). It will also have the flexibility so that I can take the classes I want/need to take without worrying about taking extra time off. While also giving me time to have a life and keeping me busy enough that when I have the time to write that’s exactly what I’ll do rather than frittering all my free time away on blog posts, Facebook, Twitter and other random things.

I suppose then, that I need to find that said job. However, as I think about it, if I go back to school, I may have one already lined up…as a grad assistant at the library. I worked for the library while completing my Bachelors degrees, and I loved it. If I can’t make a living writing, I want to make living working at a library. I had, briefly, thought of being a librarian in high-school, until I realized that it requires a Master’s Degree. But as I came to love, and I mean love, my job at the library, maybe the idea wasn’t so far-fetched.  It wasn’t just the job, I got to help people, and if I couldn’t help them, then I knew who could. I enjoyed working with the other students as well. The downside to this, would be that when I finish my Masters, in Information Technologies, then the job would, once again, disappear. But the more I think, and thought, about it, the more it makes sense. However, in order to take classes I need to have money. In order to work at the library I need to take at least two classes at a time.

I have, however, talked to my former boss, and he said he could continue me as a grad assistant without a problem, so that makes life a great deal easier. And, as the end of my schooling approaches, I can start looking for a job while still employed by the University library. I know that it looks much better on a resume to show that you are currently working, than if you’ve been out of work for six months. Yes, I think that I might have to do just that.

To be true to myself I need to go back to school, get the Masters in Information Technologies and look for a job in the Library field. However, I know this to be true: that it is extremely hard to find a job as a Librarian, and I will have to move out of small-town-ville. It is, in fact, a running joke within that discipline.

However, I also have the extreme fortune of being near the only University in Georgia to be accredited in this particular field. I have already graduated from said University, and it will not be hard getting into the graduate school. I have already taken the GRE and my verbal score was…high. My math scores needed some work though. Still, I have inquired and been told that getting in is not going to be a problem.

As I have been writing this blog, I have been thinking, and perhaps talking myself into this. But I would enjoy working at a library. I know I enjoy taking classes and learning. I also know that if I can’t make it as a full-time writer, then working at the library is something that I want to do. I get to help people, I get to be around books; lots and lots of books. What writer could as for more? Assuming they never become famous.

Staying true to myself is important to me. And now that I know what I want. I need to go out and get it. I have had to stop and reevaluate my life several times. Monday was one of those times. And I think everyone should stop and take a look around them and find out what they can do to make themselves happier. It’s not about money, or fame, or pleasing everyone else. It’s about the personal emotions that each of us carry, and those things may bring some people happiness, but I know that those things alone won’t make me happy. I would like to be comfortable, but I can be happy making less than 15,000 a year. I’ve done it on 6,000 a year. Sure, I could be more comfortable, but that won’t make me happy. And I think I’ve wasted enough time not being happy.

And on that note, I’m going to end my rambling and look a little further into grad school.

 

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PB and J…and other thoughts

a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, top slice ...

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In the middle of nowhere, far from anywhere really interesting there is a field full of weeds. Some of these weeds grow to be taller than a man. But those weeds hide something that is at once serious and funny. It holds the key to the most awesome sandwich ever created…I am of course referring to Peanut Butter and Jelly.

Seriously, there are huge, and I mean gigantic, peanut plants setting seed every single year. That’s peanut butter just waiting to happen. Further, there are wild blackberry bushes, just don’t touch the thorns and you get jelly! See…PB and J is just waiting to happen out there in that field. Score! And what’s better, family owns that land. Double Score.

But this got me to thinking, what if there was a PB and J forest? That would be uber cool. Or maybe I’m just nerdy that way. Better, while thinking about this idea, I formed the forest. At first, I was thinking that the plants had pods that you could squeeze out the peanut butter and the kind of jelly that you want. But then I thought that might be too much work. What if the PB and J sandwiches just grow fully formed right out of the plants. And they grow in different varieties for your eating pleasure. Grape Jelly sandwiches grow on vines. Apple jelly (one of my personal faves) grows on trees. Blackberry on bushes. And strawberry on low growing plants. So now that I have a huge forest of PB and J, I have no idea what to do with it, but it got me thinking about something else I saw recently…

Writer’s Digest has a whole new load of Short Story contests from Romance to SF to Thriller and more. They all have different dates so you could, theoretically enter them all. 4,00o words or less and you could be that much closer to publication, and the first prize for each includes $1,000. Sweet! For a full list of WD competitions go here: http://www.writersdigest.com/Competitions/.

I’m thinking that I might enter the SF/F category. Heck, I might enter two short stories (each entry has a separate fee). I’m also looking at the Romance category. I have my short story outlined for SF/F, and I have until September 15, 2011 to finish and polish. If I can have it done by the end of the month, then I can put it aside for a little while.

Also, the WD short shorts. 1,000 words or less. I’ve never been good at keeping my stories that short but I can certainly try. Maybe I’ll do something with the Peanut butter and Jelly forest for a short short. I can’t see that idea going too much further than 1,000 words, maybe not even that much; but it’s still an interesting concept. Hmm…that made me hungry. Maybe I’ll go get a PB and J.

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Writing for the future.

It’s only been a month, but I’ve grown fond of my blog. Seeing what people think of what I’ve written makes me happy. However, sometimes, life slips by faster than I intended it to, and so all writing falls by the wayside. Hands up if you know what I mean. I want to keep my blog running on the three-day publishing cycle that I’m trying to set up (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). And I want a way to record some ideas for blogs, that are not yet fully formed. 

I am planning a week-long vacation in the not-too-distant future. During this time, I’m not going to have all the time in the world to blog. In fact, due to unavoidable hassles, there will be very little time to write, let alone publish, a blog. Well, as I was pondering my soon-to-be problem, and the one I currently have as well, I realized that you can save an unpublished draft and come back to it. Yippee!

So I started one blog, saved for that week, and while it’s unfinished, I’m liking the content and want to publish it now. I keep holding back, however, because I know that I’m going to need content to publish that week.

But this writing for the future has given me another problem to hurdle. How do I go about my daily business, trying to find a job, keep in touch with family, work on my WIP, write my blog for now, and all the other stuff I do on a daily basis, and still find time to write blogs for future use? Especially considering that I have a little trouble getting all this done without the addition of the last little tidbit.

I have no idea, but I’m attempting it anyway. I’m doing this for several reasons. 1. I want my blog on a routine (whether I am on vacation or not) because I need structure in my life. And 2.When life gets in the way, I have literally no time to write, it would be great to have something to fall back on. Speaking of which, life calls and I’ll have to end this post sooner than I would have liked. But, one must make money if one wants to live.

Does anyone else do this? Write blogs in advance? If so, how do you find the time with everything going on? I know I can’t be the only one out here who seems to stay relentlessly busy.

 

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The Power of Platform

Author platforms. I’ve been reading a lot about these recently, and I wondered how much a powerful platform impacts your sales. My question was answered on Twitter today as I clicked on a link about a best-selling book that isn’t even finished: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304450604576418161912396814.html

Wow. I mean that with all the respect I can muster. I believe that part of his success, this time, is his promise to sign every pre-ordered book, and the entire first print run. That’s a lot of signatures. Still, even without that, he has more than 1 million followers on Twitter alone (he’s also on Tumblr and YourPants.org), and all those people became instantly aware that he was writing his new book.

The more people who know about the book, and the author, the more that are likely to buy. A person is far more likely to order a book if they are already familiar, at least on some level, with the author. This is where the platform comes into play–to get to know the public and get them interested in your work. I read on another blog that writing is business, the goal is to make money. I disagree. Writing is the love of my life. Publishing is the business. I write even if I’ll never be published. But, if I want to be published, and I do, I need to be able to reach the public.

There is a lot of advice out there about starting an author platform, and when you should begin marketing yourself. Most say the same thing: start marketing yourself before you get published. If you have a readership lined up before you go to an agent/publisher/etc you are more likely to get noticed, and therefore land a contract. 

Yet, so many of these advice givers are rather vague in the details. Get out there. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a business person. I have no idea how to even begin. I read, once, that starting an online blog can help. I also read that a twitter account can help. Fine. But where do you go from there? Contact the readership. Okay. How? This blog, which I’ve actually become rather fond of, is my first attempt at a public blog. I joined twitter, under the same name, a little over a week ago. And I just sit there, wondering, where do I go from here? How do I know where to get the best exposure? How do I even “twitter?” I see some, and I really wonder why they bothered writing it. I see others that are thought-provoking. I’d hope to find myself in the later group than the former.

There’s more to an author’s platform than just online. There’s the news media: radio, TV, newspaper. Start locally. As I think about the two options, I find that this is where I would rather start. I know two local DJs. I’m also connected to the local university’s newspaper and magazine, not to mention my contacts in the Creative Writing department that were forged while I was seeking my English degree, who would love to have me as a guest speaker.

I can do person-to-person networking. I’m familiar with it. It may seem old-fashioned, but I think it’s more personal. I suppose one could become more personal online, as Mr. Green did, through YouTube. And yet, even though it may sometimes be an uncomfortable experience, both aspects are important to reaching to the public. The local news media helps to reach the local population that may not be following you on Twitter. And the online presence helps reach people who it would imprudent to try to reach in person, those halfway across the world for example. After I first became aware of the author platform, I’m almost continually reminded of it whenever I see a blog, or a twitter feed. I wonder how many of those are authors are up-and-comers trying to reach the public before they “make” it. I wonder how many of those who are published started their blogs/websites/etc only after their work was accepted.

I would be more than happy just to see my name in print, but to have people read, and love, my books and characters like I do, would more than anything I could ask for. I write because there is a story trying to get out. I write because I love it. And I have the sincere hope that someone else could find the joy in my words that I do, for me making money is secondary, but to a publisher its number one. There is no use in printing a book that won’t sell, and its the author’s, and sometimes agent’s, responsibility to make sure that happens.

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It was a dark and stormy night…

Last night, okay it was around midnight this morning, I learned two things. The first is that my window is desperately in need of curtains. The second is that my cell phone emits enough light to write by. In fact, that’s how today’s blog got started, by the glow of phone light, which was sometimes rivaled by the lightning outside. Last night was a “dark and stormy night,” which led me to think of all things creepy: ghosts, goblins, vampires (not the Twilight kind) and ants. Seriously… have you ever woken up to ants crawling up your legs.

Let’s start at the beginning: “It was a dark and stormy night.” How many stories really start that way?  It’s not really creepy and far from descriptive. Was it windy? Rainy? Lightning? It tells the reader nothing. Furthermore, it’s repetitive. It’s night. Unless you live in the land of the midnight sun night is going to be dark, eventually. Stormy. Storm clouds blot out sunlight, often making noon look like twilight. “Dark” is simply not needed in that sentence.

Try this instead: The wind howled in the rafters as rain pelted the window. That was a far more descriptive sentence. Still not really creepy, but it gets the point across, the wind is “howling” and rain is coming down hard. Okay, so you don’t know its night. Yet. There is a whole paragraph just waiting to be filled with details such as the night, maybe add a lightning bolt or two that lights up the room, making the children dive under the covers. And then a whole story comes to light. It doesn’t even have to be this particular sentence; there are several ways to rewrite those lousy words.

I challenge everyone to write a paragraph starting with “It was a dark and stormy night.” It can be a short short, or an introductory paragraph to a longer work. I really despise this phrase, for the reasons stated above and maybe because it can give me the creeps on a dark and stormy night. Here is mine:

It was a dark and stormy night. His soggy boots squelched in the mud as he made his way to the house on the hill. As the wind picked up, he pulled his coat tight. In the far distance he heard a wolf howl and he quickened his pace. Taking shelter on the battered porch he shook the mud from his boots before he knocked. He raised his fist to bang more thoroughly on the door when light suddenly flooded the porch. He blinked at the young girl who answered the door, “Is your father home?”

I had hoped that using this sentence would make me appreciate it more. It didn’t. To me, it draws away from the emerging story.  There are an endless number of ways to replace those seven words that using them seems to be a bit of a waste. But it’s still good practice to just keep writing.

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