Reflections and the forthcoming year

For notes of a more personal nature, I would suggest visiting my LiveJournal.  But this is for my writing , so I will stay relatively focused.

In terms of my goals, this year has been a mixed bag. I have written three short stories, and have begun subscribing to and supporting two very good SF/Fantasy magazines via eReader, Clarkesworld and Lightspeed,  and am continuing to expand my reading background. I attended two literary cons for the first time in nearly a decade and enjoyed them terribly. I’ve joined a writer’s group, though it is more of a “Let’s keep each other motivated” type group than a “Here’s a hundred red-lines on this story” style. But I think I need that. And I’ve also found a new community through the local F/SF book club. Which lead to… well, read my LJ entry.

As for the novels, Metaphysical Graffiti took a back seat to Ivre. I’ve gotten over 70k words into it and am in the last act, but I’m finding the “seat of the pants” style of writing, where I plan a bit, then write, then plan a bit more hasn’t given me any more spontaneity. If anything, I find myself stopping, rethinking and reworking things far more. I need to have some form of happy medium.

In future, I’ll need to think of my treatments as the initial ‘script’ for my novels.  The writing process is where I film the action in the script, and make room for improvisation by the actors, a.k.a. the characters. I honestly don’t know how literary authors just write and see where characters take them. I suppose in literary works there’s an expected level of meandering which takes place, wherein the tropes of an unhappy marriage, or a person going through a middle aged crisis, or some reflection on the lost promise of youth set against a recognizable background are explored.

The year has also given me a clearer view of my limitations in terms of writing. I work, on average, nearly 10 hours a day, not counting work done via the Blackberry on my trips into and out of the city while riding the Virginia Railway Express.  I spent myself writing email after email, burning creative fuel to keep the work lights glowing. Cranking out even a few paragraphs when I get home is a feat. Yet, somehow, I still do it.  Not to the level of a professional. The pulp writers of old would snicker at my lack of work ethic.  But I still have to have these moments. The writing keeps me sane.

So what are my goals for next year? Well, first, finish Ivre and let it rest  just a bit. Add to my short story count, get them revised, and see if they spark any interest. But get out more, live a bit more, and add to my life resume a bit. Not living and exploring chokes my creativity the way kudzu kills trees.  So I need to keep living.

When the new year hits, I’ll post a fuller list of ambitions regarding my writing. But for now, I need to look back at the lessons learned and see what I can bring into the forthcoming year.

The Madness Ends?

Yes, I have failed. Failed completely and utterly. It’s time to put on some Radiohead and walk into traffic. I did not win at NaNoWriMo. I only generated 28K or so words in my novel. At my last count, it would have taken me until mid december to finally reach 50k.

But, does this mean I’ll be taking a butter knife to my wrists? (Remember, down the road, not across). No. The whole experience taught me a lot of things. And it gave me a great gift.

First, it taught me the value of writing time. My work follows me home, rubs its muddy boots in my couch and does its best Rick James impersonation. It makes writing time very precious. When I was thankful for two hour flights to and from Minneapolis as a way to get more writing in, I knew times was tight.

The writing group’s write-ins were a great help. Having a nice meeting room in the library where everyone could write, keep each other encouraged, and share baked goods gave me a great, on-calendar reason to write away from the distractions of home.

Second, it showed me why I needed to outline beforehand. I found scenes where I’d written at least a few lines worth of outlining vs “X finds out Y did Z” were far easier to write. I’d mapped out beforehand. And I knew where other scenes would need to go. So one of the next steps for me is to get back to my outline and map out the last sections of the book.

Finally, it brought me a lot closer to the folks at the book club and my writer’s group. In some ways, the times afterward, discussing writing and the latest books, was as precious as the writing time itself. It refills the soul and gives us more energy to write.

And the writing continues. I’ll keep going and seeing where this takes me.